Jeffrey Goldberg: Castro A "Great Man"
I was even more curious, however, to get a glimpse of the great man.
I'm pretty sure that Goldberg is referring to Castro as a "great man" in the important in history sense, not in the "I think he is wonderful" sense. But it still startled me. It also reminded me of the Louis Farrakhan brouhaha back in the day with the Hitler was a great man stuff. (Also interesting to remember was Farrakhan's "judaism is a gutter religion comment in light of today's anti-Muslim hysteria.) Some thoughts on the flip.
First, Goldberg explains that he went to see Castro at Castro's invitation:
A couple of weeks ago, while I was on vacation, my cell phone rang; it was Jorge Bolanos, the head of the Cuban Interest Section (we of course don't have diplomatic relations with Cuba) in Washington. "I have a message for you from Fidel," he said. This made me sit up straight. "He has read your Atlantic article about Iran and Israel. He invites you to Havana on Sunday to discuss the article." I am always eager, of course, to interact with readers of The Atlantic, so I called a friend at the Council on Foreign Relations, Julia Sweig, who is a preeminent expert on Cuba and Latin America: "Road trip," I said.
Castro reading The Atlantic? Probably still in the habit from the days when Mort Zuckerman, a fierce opponent of the Cuban embargo (so am I) and a staunch Castro apologist (not me), owned The Atlantic. But still, who really cares what Castro has to say these days, besides Cubans like me? Goldberg of course would jump at the chance, especially to discuss his favorite topic - war with Iran:
I was aware that Castro had become preoccupied with the threat of a military confrontation in the Middle East between Iran and the U.S. (and Israel, the country he calls its Middle East "gendarme"). Since emerging from his medically induced, four-year purdah early this summer (various gastrointestinal maladies had combined to nearly kill him), the 84-year-old Castro has spoken mainly about the catastrophic threat of what he sees as an inevitable war.
So what did Castro have to say?
Castro's message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, was not so abstract, however. Over the course of this first, five-hour discussion, Castro repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism. [. . .] He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. "This went on for maybe two thousand years," he said. "I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything." [. . .] There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust." I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. "I am saying this so you can communicate it," he answered.
Fidel Castro, Zionist. Who'da thunk it? Why all this now from Castro? I think Goldberg's colleague provides a good explanation:
I asked Julia to explain the meaning of Castro's invitation to me, and of his message to Ahmadinejad. "Fidel is at an early stage of reinventing himself as a senior statesman, not as head of state, on the domestic stage, but primarily on the international stage, which has always been a priority for him," she said. "Matters of war, peace and international security are a central focus: Nuclear proliferation climate change, these are the major issues for him, and he's really just getting started, using any potential media platform to communicate his views. He has time on his hands now that he didn't expect to have. And he's revisiting history, and revisiting his own history."
Trying to wipe away 51 years of tyranny is hard work.
Speaking for me only
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