Noted linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky joined author Keith Bolender to challenge the United States’ approach to Cuba, in a lecture and discussion held at Fordham on April 4.

There are 800 documented incidents resulting in more than 3,000 deaths and 2,000 injuries, said Bolender, a former journalist for the Toronto Star. In his book Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba, (Pluto Press, 2010), Bolender interviewed ordinary Cuban citizens who have either survived attacks or lost family members due to counter revolutionary attacks waged against the island, since Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista government in 1959.

One such incident, Bolender said, was the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 on October 6, 1976, which killed all 78 people on board. Bolender noted that anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, one of men responsible for the bombing, is still a free man, and living in Miami.

“The United States government has yet to recognize the bombing of Cubana Airlines as an act of terrorism,” said Bolender, “[even though]it remains the second worst incident of air terrorism in the Americas after 9/11.”

Chomsky, Institute Professor of Linguistics at MIT who wrote the introduction to Voices, said that the threat of Cuba or Latin America falling to Communism is less today than it was in the 1960’s. And yet, up until 2003, more U.S. resources were dedicated to the embargo of Cuban goods than to combatting terrorism.

Chomsky said the U.S. maintains a hard line against Cuba because Castro’s defiance of the U.S. might inspire other nations in the region to follow suit.

Also in play, said Chomsky, is several hundred years of American history dating back to John Quincy Adam’s idea of Manifest Destiny, he said.
“American leaders took for granted that we just had to take over Cuba as part of a crucial part of our expansion,” he said. “By the laws of political gravitation, Cuba would fall into our hands the way an apple falls from a tree, which is indeed what happened—as by 1898, Cuba had in fact liberated itself from Spain, and the . . . U.S. invaded. It was, in fact, a prevention of Cuba liberating itself.”

Chomsky said that the U.S.’ continued presence at Guantanamo Bay shows how the expansionist idea still holds sway.

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Keith Bolender and Noam Chomsky
Photo by Tom Stoelker

“Cuba is a kind of microcosm that shines a very bright light on ourselves, on our moral and electoral culture,” he said. “After half a century of massive terror and economic strangulation, Keith’s [book]is the first inquiry that even asks the victims what they had to do with it.”
The talk was sponsored by the Fordham Latin American and Latino Studies Institute.