Politics & Policy

Shilling For Castro

The shame of a New York Post columnist.

It’s almost like a science-fiction story. The typical Star Trek or Twilight Zone plot would involve a meteorite or escaped virus which caused some men to de-evolve. Only in this real-life case, instead of a rock from outer space, it’s a small boy from Cuba. And instead of reverting back to cavemen, the dormant gene being activated is the suck-up-to-Communism gene. Despite the fact that in the post-Cold War world, we’re all supposed to be in agreement about the twilight struggle, it seems that given half the chance some people will leap at the opportunity to kiss the derrière of a Communist dictator.

The leader of the derriere-garde hails from an unlikely quarter: the New York Post. Douglas Montero, a columnist for the Post, seems to be on contract from the Cuban embassy. Montero has long been a master — or a journeyman, to be more precise — at moral equivalence (last August, for example, Montero described twice-democratically-elected Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the anti-Semitic race-baiter Khalid Muhammed as “two gangsters”).

But the Elian Gonzalez affair seems to have transformed Montero from a typical knee-jerk New York liberal into a pro-Communist throwback, willing to say anything to elevate the status of a charismatic dictator. Sometimes, Montero’s pro-Castro prose has the sort of fawning sentimental tone that was last witnessed in newsreels of Stalin swooping in to inspect the “record harvests” of the Ukraine. Of course, Montero has tailored the story for this hemisphere. For instance, rather than call Castro “Dear Leader” he calls him “the powerful man” who cannot be “the simple man” for the sake of his people (see “Still Useful, and Idiotic,” by John Derbyshire).

His favorite moral-equivalency trick is to regularly suggest that the Cuban American community is worse than the Castro government. “The Cuban exile community is guilty of committing the same type of Kangaroo-court style justice and intimidation that they have always accused the Cuban government of mercilessly inflicting on them,” he wrote. Montero considers the Cuban-American National Foundation to be a foreign “government” — “a big money-spending organization that essentially controls Miami.” In one column, Montero passes along innuendo and scurrilous allegations from the outrageously pro-Castro (and often wildly anti-American) Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano. Serrano — who met with Juan Miguel Gonzalez — says that CANF is responsible for the current crisis. Further, Serrano says that Elian’s uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, told Juan Miguel that it is CANF preventing Lazaro from simply handing over Elian. “There is no way to prove those statements were ever uttered,” Montero admits, “but it now appears to be the only way to explain why the Miami relatives don’t hand over the boy to the father.”

In another column, Montero asserts that the foundation “has the same totalitarian grip on Miami it accuses the Castro government of having on Cuba.” It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that, to date, there have been no reports of the Cuban American National Foundation rounding up Miami citizens and killing them or sentencing them to jail terms without fair trials. They haven’t tortured anybody either. Also, they don’t prevent Miami citizens from boarding rickety boats and risking death for a new life in the workers’ paradise of Cuba.

While much of this strains the cause of ideological diversity — a concept conservatives have always been more comfortable with than the left — what should shock the New York Post’s editors is Montero’s lapse this week into pure advocacy.

Doing mere “equivalency” one better, Montero deftly made the case for Cuban superiority recently, in a column on April 25th. While even the most liberal columnists would be somewhat reluctant to regurgitate the contents of a “government report” from a state which instructs all of its agencies, including the captive media, to stay “faithful to the Revolution,” Montero is eager. In a recent column, Montero dictated from a Cuban government report called “Operation Peter Pan — A Case Of Psychological War Against Cuba,” written by Ramon Crespo, a Cuban “immigration expert,” and Jose Buajasan, a former commander in the Cuban intelligence department. Montero assures us that “much of the story it tells has been told before, and is backed up by other sources.” Still, we don’t get a glimpse of any corroborating sources. Besides, the Cuban government’s word is enough for Montero.

“The sad hysteria in Miami is eerily reminiscent of a similar panic fueled by false information that erupted in Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro took over in 1959,” he writes. After all, Castro’s been a victim of “panic” from the get-go.

“Bent on overthrowing Castro,” Montero writes, “the CIA spread rumors that Cuban children would be stripped away from their parents and imprisoned in Communist camps forever.” Surely, “The Powerful Man” would never have done such a thing.

Let’s stipulate that the report is accurate — granted, quite a far-fetched assumption. The fear allegedly stoked by the CIA about a Communist regime snatching away children wouldn’t have been so far-fetched, as Montero would realize if he knew — or cared — more about Soviet history (he may not recall that his “The Powerful Man” was in fact Khrushchev’s yes-man). It was standard operating procedure for the Soviets to deport thousands of people — most of them, often, children — when it took over another client state. This was an old trick of Stalin’s, whose first job after the Bolshevik Revolution was “Commissar of Nationalities.” Millions of captive populations were moved around the old Soviet Union as an insurance policy against rebellion (among other things).

Once he became the real “Powerful Man,” Stalin took this show on the road. After the Spanish Civil War, the Communists took thousands of hostages, or patriotic “volunteers.” When the Baltic states “chose” to join the Soviet Union much of its population was relocated. Hence the old Soviet joke that Lithuania is the largest country in Europe because it’s located on the Baltic, its government is in Moscow, and its population is in Siberia. Today, there is still a massive Korean community in Kazakhstan, because Stalin deduced that North Korean Communists would still fight on empty stomachs if they knew their friends and relatives could be killed if they refused.

More relevantly, during the Greek Civil War (just a decade prior to Castro’s takeover), the Soviets took thousands of hostages — many, if not most, of them, children — for the same purposes. Montero is outraged that “within a two-year period, 14,000 kids were shipped to the United States by their panic-stricken parents.” One wonders how much concern he can muster for the children who were not sent, but taken, by Communists in the past. Regardless, Montero approvingly quotes the former Cuban intelligence commander who co-authored the report, who calls the liberation of these children a “macabre and cruel operation.”

Montero claims that the children who were sent to live in freedom in the United States were in fact “victims.” He ranks Miami mayor Joe Carollo first among them. Carollo, who favors keeping Elian in the United States, was sent to the US when he was six years old. To prefer freedom to Communism is what the Marxists called “false consciousness,” and that seems to be Montero’s prognosis. He concludes that, “People like Carollo should really be upset at the way the U.S. government separated them from their own parents.”

Such shameless crushes on murderous regimes are nothing new for the press and not even for the New York Post. Under the former Communist and lifetime liberal James Wechsler, the New York Post used to run all sorts of encomiums to Stalin. The revered pro-Communist I.F. Stone wrote numerous editorials for the Post embellishing the Soviet society of the future, defending the Nazi-Soviet Pact and excusing show trials and purges, of which he wrote “Revolutions do not take place according to Emily Post….” But Douglas Montero is no I.F. Stone.

Under Rupert Murdoch’s ownership, the New York Post has become in its way the best newspaper in the country and — along with the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times — the most reliably conservative. Intellectual diversity should always be applauded on the right because it is so resolutely dismissed on the left. Nonetheless, one wonders how so many sensible and decent journalists can stomach such propaganda.


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