Toni Solo: Remaking Antigone - The Cuba Five
Remaking Antigone : The Cuba Five
By Toni Solo
"I will do my duty, - and yours if you will not - to a brother. I will never be false to him." (1) So says Sophocles' protagonist Antigone. Listen, twenty five hundred years on, this too is the voice of humanity:
"At this precise moment the world is witnessing the clearest demonstration of double morality by a government which on the one hand frenetically condemns terrorism, incites wars under the pretext of fighting terrorism and on the other hand imprisons five Cubans fighting against terrorism and protects the main terrorist active in this continent, Luis Posada Carriles.... in the name of my fellow relatives, now that we have no room for more grief in ourselves, we appeal to the sensitivity of the noble and generous people of the United States to stop the shameful disgrace of setting a terrorist free...", the voice of Carlos Alberto Cremata (2) at a commemoration of the terrorist bombing of a Cuban airliner in which over 70 people were killed including his father.
Most people in the United States and its allied countries will almost certainly not have heard this voice. Humanity's voice is one the corporate media regularly censor when its message is inconvenient to the people whose interests they serve and protect. UN forces are once more murdering innocent people in Haiti. Israel continues its genocide against the Palestinians. Criminal aggression continues against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US and its allies never cease to collude with dictatorships from Pakistan to Equatorial Guinea to Egypt. Its fascist allies in Mexico are currently murdering and raping unarmed peaceful demonstrators in Oaxaca with impunity.
In such a grim context, perhaps the fate of the five Cuban anti-terrorists (3) infamously imprisoned by the morally corrupt, racist, cynical United States justice system may seem insignificant. With such enormous injustice happening by the minute elsewhere, attempts to focus the wholly justifiable outrage and protest necessary to achieve justice for the five men concerned may seem futile. But perhaps in fact one should think somewhat differently. The very fact that the Five have faced down the grotesque banality of US government hypocrisy in its own streets, in the guts of its wretchedly hollow legal system, makes their heroism as effective in its own way as people's heroic resistance in Oaxaca, Palestine, Haiti and Iraq.
To bury one's dead
Antigone was condemned to die of starvation walled up in a sealed cell. Her crime was to seek to bury her dead brother in accordance with the customary rites. Since their arrest in September 1998, the Cuban Five have been walled up in their cells, sealed off from their families. When they originally set out to uncover US government supported terror networks attacking their country, only part of their mission faced the future, anticipating new attacks.
The symbolic impact of their bravery, knowing that at any time they might be discovered and killed by the murderers they were investigating, represented too a homage to the dead. Not just the victims of the airline bombing who perished at the hands of assassins like Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch : over three thousand Cubans have been killed by US promoted terrorism over the years. The sacrifice of the Cuban Five is both a homage to those three thousand and a challenge that their memory be duly and rightly honoured.
Their challenge puts on trial the supreme hypocrisy of the United States in all its official spheres. Their case throws the US justice system into disrepute at least as seriously as the cases of the hundreds of men imprisoned in Guantanamo. The recent farcical collapse of the trial of Colombian guerrilla Simon Trinidad (4) reminds us that what the US is presenting to the world in all these cases is the spectacle of Stalinist or Nazi style show trials. The US authorities want to look tough, authoritative, self-confident. But everything about their behaviour reeks of the spurious, the fake and specious, of illegitimacy.
Globalizing illegality, immorality
In some ways the case of the Five is similar to those of courageous US political prisoners like Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier (5) and many, many others. Perhaps the main difference is that with the Five the US government is trying to stake out yet one more claim to absolute arbitrary power. The imperialist monster is no longer satisfied with imposing racist injustice within its own borders. As the stunning illegality of the "extraordinary rendition" torture program shows, the US government wants to globalise the abolition of habeas corpus in parallel with "preventive" military aggression against strategically useful or resource-rich victims.
But as happened to the tyrant Creon in Sophocles' play, or in Humphrey Bogart's brilliant portrayal (6) of moral collapse at the end of the film of "the Caine Mutiny", the world is walking out on the United States. The country's political leadership long, long ago fell into contempt in the eyes of most of the rest of the world as votes in the UN General Assembly demonstrate with monotonous regularity. US leaders look into the mirror of their corporate media and still get told they are the most powerful and righteous of all. Like an ageing gunslinger in some cheap, made-for-TV western, the old homicide still commands forced respect, just. But out of sight and earshot people make their own plans regardless. Its enemies look on in scorn as the US military titan teeters on moral feet of clay from one crisis to the next.
True friends of the US, people like Carlos Alberto Cremata, like people all around the world are waiting for this monstrous doppelganger to vanish, to wither away into dust so what they recognise in all sincerity as the noble and generous people of the United States can return their country to humanity. The words of Antigone and Cremata reach out in sisterhood and brotherhood across time and genocidal economic sanctions, putative anti-immigrant walls and the torture rooms at Guantanamo. They recognize nobility and generosity well beyond the ken of functionaries, bureaucrats and judges.
These willingly let themselves be gagged and bound by faith-based codes whose absolute presuppositions - that government acts in good faith, that government faithfully represents the people - are very clearly absurd and whose byzantine interpretation permits every kind of deceitful, dishonest, immoral manouevre. No one is surprised that US governments - Republican or Democrat - should at every step act to lead the reputation of the United States deeper and deeper into disrepute. There is no end to their criminality because they are gangsters who recognise no other rationality except what they have the power to do. They re-enact Thucydides' account of the sack of Melos (7) as interpreted by Teddy Roosevelt and "Big Bill" Taft, by Al Capone and Meyer Lansky, by Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, Anastasio Somoza and Papa Doc Duvalier, by Sese Mobutu or Ferdinand Marcos, by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. From one gangster to another the names are readily interchangeable, their legacy identical : misery, havoc, death.
Posada Carriles : terror hinge
One has only to remember that the Bush regime and its allies, like John Howard and Tony Blair, are so cynical that they expose many thousands of their own servicemen and women to radiation poisoning even though they know very well reliable science has already demonstrated beyond doubt the appalling short and long term effects of exposure to the effects of depleted uranium munitions. These polticians are utterly amoral. If they do that to their own soldiers, clearly they will perpetrate any horror on peoples who resist their will. They behave as if they were nietzschean Supermen, beyond good and evil, zipping through the skies in government jets, far above the merely human crowds mired in reality below. From Iraq to New Orleans to Haiti or Palestine, self-evidently human life means nothing to these global-elite frauds, unless of a variety that can be fooled by fear-mongering into voting them into power from one election to the next.
A fitting cipher for the global elite's sadistic political practice is the sinister figure of Luis Posada Carriles, self-confessed mass-murderer, torturer and co-organizer with Oliver North and others of the US government's terror campaign against Nicaragua after his escape from prison in Venezuela in 1983. Posada Carriles is currently under arrest in the US on immigration charges. His own case is intimately entwined with that of the Five. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Posada Carriles is why the US government protects this murderer. All the relevant international legal commitments of the US government indicate that Posada Carriles should be returned to Venezuela to face trial for the murder by bombing of over 70 civilian passengers on board a Cuban airliner flying out of Caracas in 1976.
What does Posada have on the US government that they do not return him for trial in Venezuela? One of the more plausible conspiracy theories on the Dallas assassination of J.F.Kennedy in 1963 puts anti-Castro Cuban exiles into the frame so as to explain the infamous "magic bullet" supposedly fired by Lee Harvey Oswald all on his own. Posada Carriles and his cronies were raw from the Bay of Pigs debacle back then. Is this what murderers like Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, long left to wander freely in Miami, have on the Texan political mafia of which the Bush family are leading lights? (8) That would certainly explain the repeated actions of different members of the Bush family over decades to protect Posada Carriles and Bosch, as well as the vicious treatment of the Cuban Five.
The 5 and the "war on terror"
Such speculation apart, one has to contend with the sheer vindictiveness of US government ersatz-legal overkill, deceit and cruelty against the Five. It is as if the Bush regime is venting on the Five and their families the accumulated concentrated bile of nearly fifty years of pathetic failure from one US government administration to the next to defeat the Cuban revolution. They mounted hundreds of anti-Castro assassination attempts and thousands of indiscriminate terrorist attacks as well nearly 50 years of criminal economic sanctions deliberately targeting the general Cuban population. Despite it all, Cuba now sits above Mexico in the UN Human Development Index making nonsense of the nauseating "free market" promotional flim-flam propagated endlessly by the international corporate media. Over the next few days Fidel Castro is celebrating his 80th birthday in Havana, respected by most of the world as an emblematic humanitarian and symbol of resistance to the rapacious greed of failed corporate capitalism.
The Five's indefatigable defence lawyers led by Leonard Weinglass (9) have refused to succumb to dismay in the face of the relentless dishonesty of ideologically driven Bush regime prosecutors and roller-coaster judicial rulings that lurch from condemnation to vindication and back again.. Outside the US, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions ruled in 2005 that the US government should act to remedy the injustices apparent in the original trial.. On August 9th that same year, an appeal court, agreeing with the UN Working Group's opinion, reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial. That decision itself has been reviewed and a decision in August this year returned the case to the apellate court so the Five face a further excruciatingly long drawn out process of legal argument that could last for as long as two years or more.
Overseeing the government's prosecution case is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, architect of the specious legal arguments for the Bush regime's use of torture and general trashing of the Geneva Conventions and other long established international humanitarian and human rights norms. So there is a direct link between the "war on terror" and the show trial prosecution of the Five. Both are thoroughly bogus. Both are designed to facilitate wider political and economic ideological aims. The Bush regime's assault on the physical and moral integrity of the five Cuban anti-terrorists obviously stems from the deeply rooted terrorist ethic of the US government itself - "do what we want or else..."
The undying distinction of the Five is their admirable dignity and the absence of hatred they have consistently shown. They are as relentless in their integrity as the Bush regime is incorrigible in its wretched hypocrisy. The Five are rewriting Sophocles' script for Antigone. The harder the Bush regime flunkeys work to seal up the Five in their prison cells, subjecting them to savage illegal punitive measures and denying them family visits, the more isolated and contemptible the US government becomes before world opinion. Perhaps before too long a majority of the US people will finally wake up to the domestic social and economic disaster and the catastrophic foreign policy debacle their one-party political system has brought upon them. When they finally do snap out of it, Antonio, Fernando, Gerardo, Ramón and René will probably be among the first to greet them.
1."Antigone", by Sophocles. Cribbed from the translation by R.C.Jebb.
3. http://www.freethefive.org and http://www.counterpunch.org/alarcon08272005.html and http://www.counterpunch.org/alarcon07232005.html
4. http://www.anncol.org/es/site/doc.php?id=2637 and http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/474/1/
5. Leonard Peltier – http://www.freepeltier.org. Mumia Abu Jamal - http://www.mumia.org
7. In his history of the Pelopponesian War Thucydides famously reports Athenian delegates to the besieged city of Melos saying, "The powerful do what they have the power to do. The weak accept what they have to accept."
9. http://www.counterpunch.org/weinglass01132006.html and http://www.counterpunch.org/pertierra04272006.html
10. http://www.trabajadores.cubaweb.cu/ antiterrorists_ingles/historia/official.htm
toni solo is an activist based in Central America - contact via http://www.tonisolo.net