In a country where likenesses of Jose Marti and Che Guevara stare incessantly at visitors of Cuban museums and plazas, the former U.S. president‘s blinding smile is destined to accompany the steely gaze of Cuban revolutionaries. That is because Jimmy Carter, more than anyone else in the last 100 years, accelerated the day when Cuba finally becomes a democratic country - complete with freedoms of speech, fair trials, and elections.
The effect of Carter‘s five days in Cuba can be measured as an earthquake of 10.0 on the Richter scale of Cuban politics. What had been predicted by only the most optimistic of Havana observers, now seems to becoming a reality. Fidel Castro is tolerating changes in Cuba that seem to gaining momentum with the speed of Caribbean hurricane.
Cuba will never be the same. The most prominent opposition leader in the country, Vladimiro Roca, was freed after five years in prison just before Carter‘s arrival. The use of a quasi-capitalist system in Cuba, especially in the tourism industry, is growing with the approval of Castro. Open religious services have returned to the island.
Best of all, allowing an American leader to give an uncensored nationally televised speech is unfathomable, shocking the island nation to its core. In the past, Castro has been so obsessed with controlling the content of speeches given to large audiences that he often strode into the government-run newspapers after his marathon lectures to change the text for publication the next day.
While Carter mostly discussed ways to improve relations between Cuba and the U.S., a significant portion of the TV speech addressed human rights issues and the lack of economic and political freedom in Cuba. While the rest of the world was abuzz over the recent Varela Project in Cuba, a petition signed by over 11,000 brave Cubans calling for government reforms, most Cubans first heard of the petition drive from Carter‘s speech. And Fidel Castro was listening nearby, respectfully. Amazing.
As Jimmy Carter has so nobly expressed, now is time for the most powerful nation in the world to do the right thing and jump on the current wave of goodwill to normalize relations with Cuba.
The flap over terrorist warnings before 9/11. This is no time to be pointing fingers at U.S. officials. However, when it was revealed that our government had reports of a plan by Osama bin Laden to seize civilian aircraft and simultaneous evidence of al-Qaida connected Middle-Eastern men enrolled in U.S. flight schools, it seems incomprehensible that little was done. A Minnesota FBI agent even reported just before the attacks that the 20th al-Qaida hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, “could fly something into the World Trade Center.“
This is the same Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida network that was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Did we somehow forget that it was bin Laden who recently attacked the U.S.S. Cole and several U.S. embassies around the world with deadly results? If there was one person in the world who had declared Holy Jihad against America and whose deeds more than backed up his words, it was Osama bin Laden. Even before 9/11, merely a hint of intelligence reports linking bin Laden with plots against the U.S. should have warranted a condition of high alert. The need for a thorough investigation of the 9/11 attacks is obvious - how and why were they allowed to happen? Let it be crystal clear, though, that murderous terrorists are directly responsible for the tragic events of September 11th - not George W. Bush, not the CIA or FBI, and certainly not Bill Clinton.
The goal of the investigation should be to find out why these reports of imminent terrorist attacks were not heeded and to prevent them from ever happening again.