FIRST HANOI, NOW HAVANA? SPARE US MORTON HALPERIN’S PRESCRIPTIONS FOR POTEMKIN DEMOCRACY IN CUBA

(Washington, D.C.): It is appalling —
if not particularly surprising — that an
individual with Morton Halperin’s
checkered background and consistently
poor judgment would welcome to the
National Security Council individuals who
had recently, deliberately and flagrantly
violated U.S. law. On 6 April,
Dr. Halperin and an NSC colleague,
Richard Feinberg, met with
representatives of “Pastors for
Peace” and “Freedom to
Travel” whose organizations had
engaged in activity prohibited under the
terms of the U.S. trade embargo against
Cuba.

By so doing, the NSC’s Senior Director
for Democracy has conferred a degree of
legitimacy on those determined to aid one
of the planet’s last, repressive
communist regimes. At the very least, Dr.
Halperin has reinforced their expectation
that the Clinton Administration is
prepared to adopt a more conciliatory
policy toward Fidel Castro’s Cuba. In
fact, according to today’s Miami
Herald
, the “leaders of
the two organizations… emerged from
talks with White House officials brimming
with confidence that their acts of civil
disobedience are easing U.S. restrictions
toward Cuba.”

This confidence is evidently rooted,
in part, in the Administration’s decision
to return 65 passports confiscated from a
group of Americans who had illegally
travelled to Cuba last October. According
to a report on the Halperin meeting
carried on 7 April by Reuter, a
“Freedom to Travel”
representative, Pam Montanaro, said that
“[her] group interpreted this [step]
to mean that the travel ban would soon
fall, either by Administration action or
in the courts.”

Not surprisingly supporters of the
Cuban Democracy Act — which reinforced
and tightened the original embargo —
like Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) are
“furious that the [Clinton] Justice
Department is failing to enforce”
the law of the land. According to the Herald,
Rep. Torricelli has written to Attorney
General Janet Reno urging prosecution of
the “Freedom to Travel” group.
In an interview with the paper on
Thursday, he warned: “Bill Clinton
needs to convey to the Justice Department
that his foreign policy is being
compromised by an independent Justice
Department that is not acting in his
interests.”

It’s Bigger than the
Justice Department

Unfortunately, the opposition to the
Cuban Democracy Act avowed repeatedly by
candidate and President Clinton is
apparently much more widespread in the
Administration than merely “an
independent Justice Department.”
Certainly, Ms. Montanaro felt reinforced
in her insouciance over flouting U.S. law
by the signals sent by the National
Security Council’s Halperin and Feingold:
She told Reuter that “the
two Clinton Administration officials gave
no hint of their position on” ending
travel restrictions to Cuba
,
(read, no criticism, no warnings of
punishment for illegal activity, no
affirmation of the official Clinton
line).

Subsequent, official demurring about
these signals — to the effect that Ms.
Montanaro and her colleagues “may
have misconstrued politeness with an
intimation about a policy direction”
— are further belied by the actions of
yet another U.S. government agency, the
State Department. On Tuesday, 5 April,
the U.S. Coast Guard — for the first
time in years and after consultations
with State — refused to permit 19 Cuban
refugees to enter the United States on a
technicality, (i.e., that they had used
the Bahamas as a transit point on their
flight from Castro’s imploding
despotism). As the Associated Press
reported two days later:

“During the Reagan and Bush
administrations, thousands of Cubans
arriving in third countries were
allowed to come to the United States
under a program sponsored by the
Cuban American National Foundation,
an exile group. Under the program,
the foundation paid all costs that
the U.S. government normally pays for
resettling refugees. The program must
be renewed periodically and has
lapsed under the Clinton
Administration
. An official said
the Administration is studying
it.” (Emphasis added.)

The Halperin Agenda

A further basis for concern about the
future course of Clinton Administration
policy toward communist Cuba arises from
Morton Halperin’s personal commitment to
initiatives like those of “Pastors
for Peace” and “Freedom to
Travel.” Specifically, on 16
September 1992, Dr. Halperin testified —
in his capacity as Director of the
Washington office of the American Civil
Liberties Union — on behalf of the
“Free Trade in Ideas” Act
originally sponsored by Rep. Howard
Berman (D-CA).

As noted in a Center for Security
Policy Decision Brief entitled, A
‘No-Brainer’: Rep. Berman’s ‘Free Trade
in Ideas’ Bill Must Not Be Allowed to
Strengthen Tyrants
, ( href=”index.jsp?section=papers&code=93-D_44″>No. 93-D 44,
1 June 1993), this legislation
would prevent the President from
enforcing certain multilateral U.N
embargoes — as well as some unilateral
sanctions — even in war time.
What is more, if enacted, it would
provide a convenient cover for a host of
illegal and undesirable financial and
trade transactions. Of particular concern
with regard to the Cuban Democracy Act,
it would prevent the President from
barring the travel of American citizens
to any country under any conditions.

Ominously, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) (a
prime mover behind the effort to
normalize relations with communist
Vietnam) has recently inserted in the FY
1994 State Department authorization bill,
H.R. 2333, “sense of the
Senate” language that tracks with
the Berman bill. The Kerry amendment
calls on the President not to
“restrict informational,
educational, religious, or humanitarian
exchanges…or travel for any such
[purposes]…between the United States
and any other country.” Rep.
Berman reportedly hopes to modify this
language in the upcoming conference on
H.R. 2333 to make it mandatory,
rather than merely hortatory.

The Bottom Line

The Clinton Administration has made no
secret of the fact that U.S. policy
toward Cuba is under review. According to
press reports, Secretary of State Warren
Christopher is to make known the results
of this review within a matter of weeks. The
Center for Security Policy profoundly
hopes that the outcome of this review has
not been signalled — or suborned — by
Morton Halperin’s clear disloyalty to
President Clinton’s stated policy.

As the Administration completes its
analysis, the Center hopes that it will
give greater weight to those making daily
sacrifices to bring about a truly
democratic Cuba — rather than those,
like Dr. Halperin, who while nominally
responsible for promoting
“Democracy” within the U.S.
government, seem determined to prevent
that outcome.

For example, the Administration should
heed the attached,
courageous condemnation
of Rev.
Lucius Walker, director of “Pastors
for Peace,” issued from one of
Castro’s jail cells by a political
prisoner, Joel Duenas Martinez. If
it does so, it may yet spare the Cuban
people the open-ended communist nightmare
now in prospect for the recently
abandoned people of Vietnam.

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