opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
R. Emmett Tyrrell
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
9 Apr 2015
Bill Clinton Spoke the Truth, Honest

WASHINGTON — Some of my most cherished lines from President Bill Clinton's presidency had nothing to do … Read More.

2 Apr 2015
Sex Among the Goofballs

WASHINGTON — What is going on in American politics of late? There has not emerged a truly goofball … Read More.

26 Mar 2015
Reforming Islam

WASHINGTON — What do you know, the world's leading reformer of Islam is turning out to be a general. He … Read More.

Helping Barack Remember History


WASHINGTON — Does anyone remember what it was that turned America hostile toward the tropical paradise of Cuba? Our president tells us "we're caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s and gunboat diplomacy, and 'Yanquis' and the Cold War." Yes, really, "gunboat diplomacy." That is how University of Chicago adjunct law professors talk about American foreign policy. And he adds, "Sometimes those controversies date back to before I was born." So, what got America so riled up over the Castro brothers and Cuban communists even before Barack Obama was born?

As I recall, it was a bipartisan hostility. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican if memory serves, began it. His successor, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, continued it, and he and his brother Bob actually dragged the nation through the Cuban missile crisis. Then Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, and Richard Nixon, a Republican, and literally every president thereafter continued to harass and afflict the Castros until President Obama had the brilliant idea of simply using his executive powers to relax various commercial and travel restrictions against Cuba. Yet why did America's hostility toward Cuba start in in the first place?

Truth be known, not all Americans hated Castro. There were the members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, among whom were the writers James Baldwin, Truman Capote and Allen Ginsberg. Also the political activist Lee Harvey Oswald who, as you might recall, actually assassinated John F. Kennedy. Then there were Castro's friends among the Hollywoodians, Fidel being rather arty. There was the actor Jack Nicholson who immediately identified Castro as "a genius." Oliver Stone, the director, appraised him as "selfless and moral, one of the world's wisest men." And another director, Steven Spielberg, adjudged a dinner spent with Castro "the eight most important hours of my life." There were members of the media, Ted Turner, Barbara Walters and Andrea Mitchell, who said of the Cuban leader, "Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly — even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure."

Still the rest of America favored hostility for years. America seems to have taken offense when Fidel Castro said some rude things about us.

He took the side of the USSR against us in the Cold War and sent troops abroad to foment revolution. He also sent spies. Institutions that America has cherished, such as democracy and the rule of law, were not always respected in Castro's Cuba, where there existed political prisoners who were treated badly and often killed.

A very persuasive case was made against the Castro brothers by Armando Valladares in the early 1980s when he published his prison memoirs, "Against All Hope." In that book he chronicled almost unbelievable cruelty during 22 years of imprisonment for philosophically opposing communism. He was arrested at 23 and suffered through torture, solitary confinement and witnessing friends dragged before firing squads. He ate putrid food, suffered squalid conditions, illness and forced labor until the protests of world leaders such as Francois Mitterrand led to his release. Through it all I can find no hint of our Hollywoodians or of the members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee speaking up on behalf of Valladares or any other imprisoned Cuban.

The brutality of "Against All Hope" is astonishing. It puts me in mind of stories John McCain has told me and doubtless others regarding Cuban communists. He says that when he was in communist prisons in North Vietnam things were bad. Nonetheless when the Cubans arrived to assist the North Vietnamese they became worse. I wonder if any Cuban prison guards from the good old days graduated to become members of Raul Castro's security detail. Were they with him in Panama City when he and President Obama sat down to talk last weekend and to engage in shared amnesia about why the vast majority of Americans approved of our long years of hostility toward the Castros?

President Obama's insouciance toward American sacrifice during the Cold War marks him out as the only American president that does not understand the Cold War. It also marks him as the only president that does not like American history and in truth does not like America. While he was visiting with Raul Castro and scratching his head about the inscrutability of America's long history of opposing the Castro brothers, my guess is that their prisons still hold latter day Armando Valladareses. Obama might have asked Castro about freeing them.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of "The Death of Liberalism." To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
Apr. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 1 2
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 20 Apr 2015
Mark Shields
Mark ShieldsUpdated 18 Apr 2015
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 18 Apr 2015

2 Jun 2011 An Impostor's Complaint

23 Apr 2009 President Obama's World Tour

3 Jul 2008 Clinton and I at Georgetown