Mean Boys: Bush Turns His Back on Cuban Disaster
Hundreds have lost their lives and nearly a million people are without shelter, medical supplies, or food in the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike (which is ravaging Cuba at this moment with a storm surge as high as a five story apartment building and winds up to 150 mph, according to Reuters.)

But Condi Rice says the Bush administration sees “no wisdom” now in ending an economic embargo against Cuba — even temporarily — despite strong criticism that only prompt action by Cuba’s largest neighbor can truly save lives and provide needed disaster relief in the aftermath of hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

There’s “No Wisdom” in helping a million of our neighbors and restoring our image in the world as one of the “good guys”?

As opposed to the “Wisdom” and “Judgment” the Bush administration has shown in bombing Iraq and killing up to half a million innocent civilians.

As opposed to the “Wisdom” displayed in ignoring the genocide of hundreds of thousands in Darfur.

As opposed to the “Wisdom” the administration has shown in failing to protect New Orleans from Katrina and the continuing string of hurricanes that seem to be menacing this woe begotten city.

In contrast, last week, Barack Obama called for sympathy for Cubans who had been hit hard by Gustav. And he asked Bush “to immediately suspend restrictions on family remittances, visits and humanitarian care packages from Cuban Americans for a minimum of 90 days.”

Five Cuban-American members of Congress have urged the Bush administration to provide direct assistance to Gustav’s victims in Cuba. They said, more importantly, that aid could be provided without changing U.S. law to lift the restrictions.

Could the critical electoral swing votes in the state of Florida— often determined by the views of Cuban emigrants — have a role in what seems like a needlessly mean action?

Nah. Of course not!

Our President would never let domestic political considerations influence his judgment as Commander-In-Chief.

Fidel Castro, wrote in a newspaper that the storm hit Cuba like a “nuclear blast” and that the damage reminded him of what he saw when he visited Hiroshima, Japan, after World War II.

“Now the battle is to feed the victims,” Castro wrote, estimating that it would take $3 billion to $4 billion to finance basic recovery efforts on an island where the average state salary is only about $20 per month. Gustav damaged 100,000 homes on Cuba. No one knows how many lives and homes Ike will destroy.

Apparently Russian President Dmitry Medvedev saw the “wisdom” of sending aid to Cuba. Urgent medical aid and supplies from Russia are already being unloaded from large transport planes.

The Russians also promised to upgrade and rebuild a shattered electrical power system.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has also taken a personal interest in the aftermath of the powerful hurricanes and has expressed offers of massive aid.

In fact many other near and faraway countries are offering aid for this tragedy including Columbia, China, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, the Cayman Islands, Peru, Saint Lucia and Timor.

In 2004, when the US offered $35 million worth of aid to the victims of the Tsunami 9,000 miles away, the administration was so ridiculed that it eventually upped the offer to $350 million.

More recently the US offered 1 billion dollars to rearm and aid Georgia, which is also some 9,000 miles from the US mainland.

In contrast, Cuba is 90 miles away from the Florida Keys.

The administration, eventually after the criticism, offered $100,000 worth of aid through humanitarian relief organizations to Cuba, but this is but a pittance compared to what is needed by one of our closest neighbors.

Significantly, in 2005, when New Orleans was in need, Cuba offered to send doctors to the United States to help treat victims of Hurricane Katrina. The White House declined the offer.

Maybe someone should remind Bush that there are no Soviet missiles in Cuba anymore.

The Cold War is over.

We should have Navy hospital and disaster relief ships — with water, food and medical supplies –steaming to Cuba right away. What is so complicated (or more American) about helping neighbors in need?

Why can’t we be the good guys again?

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About Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood Blake Fleetwood was formerly on the staff of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, The New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Village Voice, Atlantic and the Washington Monthly on a number of issues. He was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to New York City at the age of three. He graduated from Bard College and did graduate work in political science and comparative politics at Columbia University. He has also taught politics at New York University. He can be reached at
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One Response to Mean Boys: Bush Turns His Back on Cuban Disaster

  1. Darrell Prows says:

    We don’t need to send anything down to Cuba. Hell, just reenact Mariel, and there will be a private craft armada thousands strong on the waters in a matter of hours. And why that sort of interaction between our Cubans and their falilies back home is not available everyday is beyond me.