Blockade: an 'economic neutron bomb'

Issue 

By Antonio Paneque Brizuelas

RAMSEY CLARK entered the Cuban Red Cross building in Havana, where a shipment of insulin from the US company Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals was handed over in a modest ceremony. The first question put to him when we sat down for an interview some time later was almost inevitable, and judging from his carefully considered response, Clark might very well have anticipated it.

Mr Clark, during President Fidel Castro's last visit to Mexico, I think I remember a reporter asking if Cuba wasn't using the concept of the blockade as a pretext to justify the country's deficiencies. Fidel basically answered, "Fine, then, take the pretext away". What do you think about this? How does Ramsey Clark feel about the blockade?

As a lawyer, which I am, and considering the many uses of the concept of blockade, I see the blockade clearly as a crime against humanity, in the Nuremberg sense, as a weapon of mass destruction. You know, we talk about nuclear weapons as being a weapon of mass destruction. The blockade is a weapon for the destruction of the masses and it attacks those segments of society that are the most vulnerable. Inherently, it attacks infants and children, the chronically ill, the elderly and emergency medical cases.

Like the neutron bomb, it takes lives, it kills people, but it protects property, it doesn't destroy property. So when you look at the effect of what we generally call the sanctions on Iraq, you see hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by those sanctions, far more than all the deaths caused by the US military assault on Iraq. The sanctions have killed more than four times the number of people that the bombing killed.

When you look at Vietnam, you see that the sanctions have done more injury, caused more death to the people there since 1975 than all the years of war against the French and the United States. The children born in Vietnam just in the last five years are estimated to have been severely underweight at birth in half of the births, and more than half of that half, more than a quarter, physically or mentally retarded from malnutrition, the lack of medical supplies and all the rest. The damage to the people of Vietnam is of enormous magnitude and is a crime against humanity.

The purpose of the blockade against Cuba is to cripple the country, to prove to the world that the Cuban system failed, that there's only one system that works and that all of this talk from Cuba about its accomplishments during the Revolution was a mirage, that it wasn't an accomplishment of the Cuban people or the system, but simply the product of the Soviet subsidy.

So for instance, your incredible revolution in health, which can offer hope to the poor throughout the world, the tens of millions of poor in the United States who have no health care, and whole countries of people who live short, miserable sick lives, (they want to prove) that Cuba really accomplished nothing, that the system totally failed, and that now they can't even care for their own sick.

I think that it's of the greatest importance that the blockade be ended immediately and prohibited from ever happening again against any people.

During the period after World War II, when the power of the planet was divided in the main between the Soviet bloc and the West, the sanctions could not be a very meaningful weapon. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the blockade became the weapon of choice, because it is inexpensive, it can punish a whole country and it can protect the property there for future exploitation.

Cuba has never been at war with the United States, like Vietnam or Iraq, nor has it ever attacked another country. But now Washington has resumed relations with Vietnam, and there are no prohibitions on sending foodstuff or medications to Iraq. How would you establish a difference, within the current international context?

It takes two things to impose sanctions: wealth, and the military capacity to enforce it. So now, the US policy suddenly shifts. Many say that the US doesn't have a foreign policy any more with the Clinton administration, but they've made very clear what their policy is. The US Chamber of Commerce reopened its offices [in Russia] in 1993 for the first time since 1917, so you can imagine how the Americans there felt. Warren Christopher, the secretary of state was there; Lloyd Benson the secretary of the treasury, was there. Benson said that economics is the foreign policy of the United States, and Warren Christopher said the foreign policy of the United States is economics.

So the policy now is to exploit the rest of the world economically. So we come up with NAFTA, which forced the Mayan Indians in Chiapas, Mexico, to either rebel or abandon their lifestyle and move to the slums of Oaxaca or Mexico City and beg for food, because on January 1, 1994, they could no longer sell their corn for cash. Chiapas was the only state in Mexico that exported corn.

What do you think will happen in the future? What should be changed to make things better for humankind?

The need we all have for the years ahead is to find ways to share the truth and work together to prohibit the United States government from any use of its military technology against any people anywhere, and to reverse US economic policy, which is designed to enrich the plutocracy, the rich in the United States.

Otherwise, we will see a growing gap between the rich and the poor, which has been growing steadily, both within the United States and other rich countries and poor countries, and between rich countries and poor countries, and completely reverse that policy to seek to greatly increase the share of the poor countries and the poor people. Otherwise, we're headed for a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.

US foreign policy, which is basically economic, to enrich our plutocracy, must be reversed to cause a greater distribution of wealth to the poor, to the poor nations, to the poor people within the United States.

The United States is not a democracy. It is a plutocracy. It is government by wealth. You can't understand the United States if you don't recognise this. The plutocracy controls the military and the media, and that has to be changed. We have to liberate the United States from the control of the plutocracy, so that our poor, whose numbers are enormous, can share, and so that we don't devise these means like GATT and NAFTA.
[From Granma International. Slightly abridged.]

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