The Shame of Americans Who Fail to Meet Cuban Dissidents

This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

The American Security Project (ASP), a somewhat obscure Washington think tank, is one of the very many groups leading trips to Cuba. What makes theirs different is that it is a “Delegation of Retired Admirals and Generals to Cuba.” The group departed on March 14 for Havana.

It isn’t a very big or distinguished delegation, to be sure. One member is a retired brigadier general who is actually the CEO of the American Security Project. There are five others (also retired) with flag rank joining him. They should be ashamed of themselves.

03_16_Cuba_Dissident_01 Boys wearing palm fronds around their necks after going to church on Palm Sunday along the Paseo de Marti, the wide boulevard running through the heart of the historic Old Havana neighborhood, March 20, 2016 in Havana. Elliott Abrams writes that the delegation to Cuba of senior former U.S. military personnel will meet no dissident and apparently has not the slightest interest in freedom and human rights in Cuba. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

ASP’s own web page tells us why, stating that “ASP looks forward to helping build a closer relationship between the governments of the United States and Cuba.” The governments—that is, a relationship between our government and the vicious, brutal, repressive Castro regime.

Related: Elliott Abrams : The hypocrisy about mourning Castro

The delegation schedule is true to this approach:

The itinerary includes meetings with senior officials from across the Cuban government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Energy.

What’s missing in this list? Cubans—ordinary Cubans who are not on the regime payroll and who might tell the delegation the truth about life in Cuba. Notably, the delegation meets no dissident and apparently has not the slightest interest in freedom and human rights in Cuba.

Another ASP web page tells us that:

The American public understands the complexities of today’s global challenges, but has too often been misled by empty rhetoric and cherry-picked facts. ASP is organized around the belief that honest public discussion of national security requires a better-informed citizenry–one that understands the dangers and opportunities of the 21st century, the spectrum of available responses, and the benefits and drawbacks of each course of action.

But the Cuba trip makes a mockery of that standard. This delegation will hear one side, the official side–and then help the Castro regime by shoveling it back to the U.S. press.

“The delegation is scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., by way of Miami late Friday, March 17th and is eager to engage with media regarding the trip,” says ASP. Eager—no doubt, as there is no doubt what they will have to say after this voyage to visit the Castro regime. They will see nothing of the real Cuba, and this trip is reminiscent of the visits Westerners made to Potemkin villages in Stalin’s Russia.

No doubt the regime is eager to welcome them, as it welcomes all visits by Americans whom it is confident it can fool. That there are half a dozen retired American flag officers on this visit is sad. Will not one single one of them demand to speak to a dissident, or to say a word in defense of the freedom of the Cuban people?

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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