Tags: 'Fidel: | Hollywood's | Favorite | Tyrant'

'Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant'

Thursday, 07 April 2005 12:00 AM

As a journalist and activist I've covered or participated in hundreds of demonstrations in front of embassies, consulates and the like.

I've attended one and only one, however, that convinced me the people inside the building being demonstrated against felt the intended message reverberating through their bodies and souls and weren‘t just scowling out the embassy windows wondering when the clamorous riffraff would go away.

It was October 23, 1957; one year to the day after the Freedom Fighters of Hungary tried futilely to break free from their Soviet masters. A crowd of Hungarians gathered in front of the Soviet U.N. Mission on Park Avenue in New York. After they shouted the usual "Russians go home!" and "Freedom for Hungary!" they began to chant, punctuated by the beat of a big bass drum, "Davai chasi! Davai chasi!"

I'm sure that one wasn't lost on the Russians inside. "Davai chasi" is not Hungarian. It's Russian and it means "Hand over your wristwatch!"

All observers – friends, foes, and neutrals – of the Soviet Red Army's advance westward toward Berlin in the closing days of World War II knew that "Davai chasi" was the ubiquitous command whenever Russian troops met civilians wearing a timepiece. It was common to see Russian soldiers with both arms festooned up and down with wristwatches they'd liberated at gunpoint from anyone in their path who had one.

I've read everything I could over the past 46 years about Fidel Castro's pestilential devastation of the once-beautiful and prosperous island of Cuba. Many of those books were good. Some were great. But the

Unlike earlier writers on the subject, Fontova never for an instant comes across as a right-wing screaming meemy in Miami who probably lost a sugar mill in a Castro nationalization or a plantation in a Castro "land reform." Not that Fontova is emotionally disconnected. He and his family left Cuba when he was 7 years old, early in Castro's reign. His father was taken from the rest of the family at the airport and sent to the notorious La Cabana Prison, where he expected to face a firing squad at any moment.

There's nothing wrong with being a political refugee in a free country like America, opposing a dictator who turned his beloved country into a jail and a slum. I just wish more of them did it the way Humberto Fontova does it. Fontova doesn't recycle nasty rumors about Castro; he documents deeds. He doesn't smear; he illustrates.

This book will lead to the discarding of Che Guevara T-shirts and the refusal to purchase more. This book will cause Americans to wonder how we could have grown such healthy antipathy toward murderous dictators seen dimly through binoculars far across the world and given a free ride and even a "hail-fellow-well-met" to an even worse tyrant so close by.

This book will cause professors to quit rhapsodizing about the valiant little David in the Caribbean who's stood up to the Yankee Goliath for going onto half a century now. And it will cause students to cease believing those professors who still do.

The subtitle of "Fidel" is "Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant." Fontova takes the foolish quotes of the large clique of pro-Castro Hollywood icons and emblazons them in print as a kind of marquee of shame. If Ted Turner had read "Fidel" before he opened his mouth on the matter, would he still have taken the stage at Harvard and called Fidel Castro "one helluva guy?" If Steven Spielberg had opened this book and learned that Castro had jailed more political prisoners per capita than Hitler and Stalin had, would he have nonetheless described his visit with Fidel as "the most important eight hours of my life"? Perhaps, but I don't think so.

Fontova's book "Fidel" will do more than black coffee – even super-strong

Among the much-needed lessons inside "Fidel" is the startling-but-provable fact that Cuba wasn't always a Third World nation. Fidel's communism made it so.

If you liked 9/11, you must love Fidel Castro. Fontova details the terrorist bombing Fidel had planned to visit upon New York City the day after Thanksgiving 1962, the busiest shopping day of the year. That plot, intended to kill many more Americans than 9/11 did, was foiled the old-fashioned way – FBI infiltrators back in the J. Edgar Hoover days, when our protectors were free to spy, follow, fight and foil.

Inside "Fidel" you'll meet ordinary Cubans suddenly converted into martyrs, who died against the wall yelling "Christ is King" and "Long Live Free Cuba!" before the bullets hit. You'll meet the Cuban patriots who landed at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 and outfought the overwhelming numbers of Soviet-supplied communist troops even though they'd been cowardly abandoned by an American administration that suddenly chickened out and, in effect, said to the Cubans on the beach, "We may have brought you here, but we don't know you."

Even anti-Castro Americans tend to think of the failure of that invasion as a forlorn, almost comic-opera burlesque of a genuine freedom fight. The steel wool of Fontova's documentation will expunge those insulting and inaccurate notions from your memory bank.

Truth dashed to earth, the saying goes, will rise again. Trouble is, a lie will do the same thing. Thus Michael Moore will never feel shame for having said "Cubans were ‘wimps' and ‘crybabies' who fled to the U. S. and expected Americans to do their fighting for them!"

As one who covered Castro's takeover of Cuba (and beat Fidel to Havana by five days after Batista fled), I get as much satisfaction seeing the prevailing myths about Castro and his "achievements" crumple and fall under Fontova's pen as Castro apparently gets seeing those he hates fall before his firing squads.

Do you think, just as one random example, that Fulgencio Batista was a fascist beast whose overthrow by Castro should still be hailed by all politically healthy people? Did you know that Batista was a black man who, even as "dictator," couldn't get himself accepted as a member of the Havana Yacht Club? Read on inside "Fidel" about all the things perfectly permissible to Cubans under Batista that would get you jailed or killed if you tried them under Castro. Like leaving the island, for one – far from the only example.

Do you believe that Fidel, regardless of his politics, nonetheless fought courageously to win Cuba for his Revolution? Read about the real Fidel in real combat as told by those who were there with him. Do you believe Cuba's collapsed standard of living – which before Castro surpassed Austria's and Italy's, is the fault of the American embargo? And do you think that embargo was applied for no better reason than an ego-wounded America throwing a hissy fit because a communist ate our lunch so close to home? Do you believe that blacks and homosexuals fare better in the left-most regime in hemisphere history?

Those and many other malignant myths vanish between covers of "Fidel" like an Alka-Seltzer tablet under Niagara Falls.

Repetition makes reputation, so you need not be ashamed if you think that at least Fidel Castro scored big on the issue of providing health care to the Cuban masses. The truth awaits you on page 84 of "Fidel." Here it is:

Before Fidel, Cubans were already among the healthiest and best- educated people in the world and it didn't require Hitler-level political executions and Stalin-level gulags to achieve.

And Humberto Fontova terminates the great and growing legend of Che Guevara as though it were a cobweb under a blowtorch.

We all know of the botched hatchet job against President Bush's re-election campaign that led to Dan Rather's recent difficulties. Thanks to "Fidel," we now know the equally shameful details of Dan Rather's interview with the father of Elian Gonzalez, which could not have gone more to Castro's liking if Fidel had burst into the CBS studios, executed the entire floor crew, and directed the interview himself.

After reading "Fidel," you may feel like writing a thank-you note to the heirs of Soviet boss Nikita Khrushchev for not launching a nuclear missile strike against America during the Cuban Missile Crises of 1962. Castro doesn't "admit," he

Afghans have told foreign reporters that they didn't expect anything awful when the Taliban took over. "They were religious students," said one tribesman. "We thought they'd be OK." That reminded me of what Cubans said after they cheered Fidel's entry into Havana in January 1959. They pointed out that Castro and his hearty band were also students; idealistic and accompanied by bearded young men from the countryside who just wanted a clean, corruption-free Cuban government and who literally wouldn't know how to contact a Soviet agent even if they wanted to.

That recollection returned to me with each monstrous act committed by Fidel, Che and their minions. And those returnings reached machine-gun velocity as Fontova recounts the bloody blur of shootings, executions, slaughters, murders and the virtual decapitation-by-pistol of a 14-year-old boy whose crime was trying to keep Che from killing his father.

The one chapter that made me cry was "Castro's Tugboat Massacre." You may want to skip that one, or get back to it after you're somewhat inured to the character of the Castro regime.

This book will spread through the bloodstream of Castro's command-and-control like The Blob. It's already being favorably reviewed in Spain even though the Spanish edition hasn't been published yet. It will be smuggled into Cuba, not by CIA operatives but by tourists from places like France, and given to curious Cuban hotel employees, the new and "reliable" privileged class of Cuban communism. They're paid better and get tips in hard currency.

Those employees have just been warned by Castro to quit "relating" to the foreign tourists they serve. Cubans don't quit relating. They'll thank the French or the German or the Swede who gives them the book and remain nervous until it's safely home.

"Safely home" in Cuba doesn't mean "once inside your own four walls." That book must then be hidden from neighbors who might drop in and from children who might go to school and blab about Papa getting a book that says Fidel is no good. Are you residual Castro admirers aware of the "Committees for the Defense of the Revolution," a

Those Committees are on every block in Cuba. They keep watch on everybody and everything. You may be called in to explain who those people are who come to visit you and why, or why you've missed five of the last nine Castro speeches in Revolution Square.

There's nothing Castro can do to keep the contents of "Fidel" from reaching every Cuban and every citizen of every free country, of which there are fortunately more and more.

Not long ago Fidel Castro stumbled and fell off a platform, sustaining hospital-class injuries. That was physical.

Humberto Fontova's book "Fidel" will inflict much graver political injury. It's the sharpest knee ever thrust into the groin of Castro's rule.

The Bearded One will never stand up straight again.


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As a journalist and activist I've covered or participated in hundreds of demonstrations in front of embassies, consulates and the like. I've attended one and only one, however, that convinced me the people inside the building being demonstrated against felt the...
Thursday, 07 April 2005 12:00 AM
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