Wednesday, May 25, 2011

UPDATE - LIBYA : NATO assumes control of military operation ...

UPDATE - LIBYA : NATO assumes control of military operation and enforces a NO FLY ZONE.

NATO Libya Operations Update

U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba

In the early 1960s, America's top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.
Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.
The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba's then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.
America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."
Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America's largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. However, the plans were not connected to the agency, he notes.
The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.
"These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing," Bamford told
"The whole point of a democracy is to have leaders responding to the public will, and here this is the complete reverse, the military trying to trick the American people into a war that they want but that nobody else wants."
Gunning for War
The documents show "the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government," writes Bamford.
The Joint Chiefs even proposed using the potential death of astronaut John Glenn during the first attempt to put an American into orbit as a false pretext for war with Cuba, the documents show.
Should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, they wrote, "the objective is to provide irrevocable proof … that the fault lies with the Communists et all Cuba [sic]."
The plans were motivated by an intense desire among senior military leaders to depose Castro, who seized power in 1959 to become the first communist leader in the Western Hemisphere — only 90 miles from U.S. shores.
The earlier CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles had been a disastrous failure, in which the military was not allowed to provide firepower.The military leaders now wanted a shot at it.
"The whole thing was so bizarre," says Bamford, noting public and international support would be needed for an invasion, but apparently neither the American public, nor the Cuban public, wanted to see U.S. troops deployed to drive out Castro.
Reflecting this, the U.S. plan called for establishing prolonged military — not democratic — control over the island nation after the invasion.
"That's what we're supposed to be freeing them from," Bamford says. "The only way we would have succeeded is by doing exactly what the Russians were doing all over the world, by imposing a government by tyranny, basically what we were accusing Castro himself of doing." 

'Over the Edge' 

The Joint Chiefs at the time were headed by Eisenhower appointee Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, who, with the signed plans in hand made a pitch to McNamara on March 13, 1962, recommending Operation Northwoods be run by the military.
Whether the Joint Chiefs' plans were rejected by McNamara in the meeting is not clear. But three days later, President Kennedy told Lemnitzer directly there was virtually no possibility of ever using overt force to take Cuba, Bamford reports. Within months, Lemnitzer would be denied another term as chairman and transferred to another job.
The secret plans came at a time when there was distrust in the military leadership about their civilian leadership, with leaders in the Kennedy administration viewed as too liberal, insufficiently experienced and soft on communism. At the same time, however, there real were concerns in American society about their military overstepping its bounds.
There were reports U.S. military leaders had encouraged their subordinates to vote conservative during the election.
And at least two popular books were published focusing on a right-wing military leadership pushing the limits against government policy of the day.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee published its own report on right-wing extremism in the military, warning a "considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of military personnel" had been uncovered. The committee even called for an examination of any ties between Lemnitzer and right-wing groups. But Congress didn't get wind of Northwoods, says Bamford.
"Although no one in Congress could have known at the time," he writes, "Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge."
Even after Lemnitzer was gone, he writes, the Joint Chiefs continued to plan "pretext" operations at least through 1963.
One idea was to create a war between Cuba and another Latin American country so that the United States could intervene. Another was to pay someone in the Castro government to attack U.S. forces at the Guantanamo naval base — an act, which Bamford notes, would have amounted to treason. And another was to fly low level U-2 flights over Cuba, with the intention of having one shot down as a pretext for a war.
"There really was a worry at the time about the military going off crazy and they did, but they never succeeded, but it wasn't for lack of trying," he says.
After 40 Years
Ironically, the documents came to light, says Bamford, in part because of the 1992 Oliver Stone film JFK, which examined the possibility of a conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy.
As public interest in the assassination swelled after JFK's release, Congress passed a law designed to increase the public's access to government records related to the assassination.
The author says a friend on the board tipped him off to the documents.
Afraid of a congressional investigation, Lemnitzer had ordered all Joint Chiefs documents related to the Bay of Pigs destroyed, says Bamford. But somehow, these remained.
"The scary thing is none of this stuff comes out until 40 years after," says Bamford.

Ariel Sigler Amaya, ten months later
May 25 - Former Cuban prisoner of conscience Ariel Sigler Amaya when he arrived in Miami on July of 2010, after being released from Castro's Gulag
Ariel Sigler Amaya with our good friend Ziva, at Cuba Nostalgia on Sunday afternoon.
What a  difference freedom and real good healthcare can make in just 10 months!
H/T Marc Masferrer Uncommon Sense
And the purge continues. This time, the victim is the interior commerce minister
May 25 - Cuba has replaced its minister of interior commerce after two years on the job.
An official report in Communist Party daily Granma on Tuesday does not give a reason for the change. It mentions no criticism of Jacinto Angulo Pardo and says he will be reassigned, “taking into account his experience and career.”
The No. 2 person at the ministry was Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo and she has been promoted to replace him.
Cuba is in the process of shaking up its socialist system to try to save a struggling economy by allowing more private sector activity.
More "changes" from Raúl: Cuban painter loses political seat after criticism
May 24 - A prominent Cuban artist said he has been removed from his legislative post and forced to close his studio over his contacts with dissidents and a commentary that was posted on an anti-government blog.
Pedro Pablo Oliva said in a message on his own website Monday that he was summoned by officials and told of a complaint filed by one of his colleagues in the Pinar del Rio provincial legislature. He said he was expelled and that members of the legislature called him a counterrevolutionary, traitor and "annexationist" - someone who wants Cuba to be taken over by the United States.
He accepted that his behavior violated a code of ethics he accepted when he assumed the legislative post. but denied being disloyal, saying he was just expressing his opinions.
"We made the difficult decision to close Casa Taller (his workshop) because the leadership of the assembly felt the project had strayed from the cultural objectives for which it was founded," Oliva wrote on his website. "As if culture were not thought, struggle and contradictions."
Telephone calls to Oliva's workshop in western Pinar del Rio rang unanswered Tuesday, and authorities had no comment.
Oliva is a painter and sculptor whose work has been auctioned by Sotheby's ( BID - news - people ) and exhibited in solo shows in Havana, Miami and New York, according to his website.
His work includes a 2003 series of portraits of Fidel Castro that were exhibited in Havana's National Museum of Fine Arts. In 2006 the Culture Ministry awarded him its National Painting Prize, one of many Cuban awards he has won over his career.
Oliva's troubles with authorities have been increasing in recent months due to artistic activities at his workshop that attracted accusations of dissident themes.  Associated Press

New entrepreneurs on the rise in socialist Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) – The salvation of socialism in Cuba is taking some odd turns, with words like "competition," "marketing" and "opportunity" being heard for the first time in decades on the communist-led island.
Under reforms by President Raul Castro, a new entrepreneurial class is developing and with it some new ways of thinking in a country that has long resisted economic change.
The government reported recently that 310,000 Cubans are working legally for themselves, of whom 221,000 have received their licenses for self-employment since last fall, when Castro announced an expansion of the private sector.
The move was part of a broad package of reforms to modernize Cuba's sluggish Soviet-style economy with the goal of saving socialism, installed after the country's 1959 revolution, for future generations.
U.S. President Barack Obama recently dismissed the changes as too small, but on the island 90 miles from the United States many Cubans welcome them and believe they are just the first of many to come.
The reforms are "an opportunity for Cubans, they are a start," said Giselle Nicolas at her new paladar, or private restaurant, La Galeria in Havana's Vedado district.
"I think Cuba is already changing for the better," she said.
In Havana and elsewhere, there is no question the economic landscape is changing.
People are setting up shop in doorways and on sidewalks, selling a variety of items ranging from food to household goods and offering repairs on shoes, cell phones and watches.
They are giving haircuts on their front porches and walking through neighborhoods hawking flowers, pastries and farm products. State-run press reported this week there are now 1,000 independent retailers of construction materials.
The Council of Ministers recently expressed concern about the number of vendors clogging sidewalks and taking away from the beauty of Cuba's historic architecture. They may have to move off main streets and into rented spaces now occupied by moribund state-run businesses, it said.
The government said 49,000, or 22 percent, of the new self-employment licenses have gone to food vendors, which has touched off a boom in the number of paladares and growing competition among them.
Alejandro Robaina, owner of La Casa, one of Havana's oldest paladares, said the newly crowded market makes it necessary to offer new services and do as much marketing as possible in a country where traditional advertising is almost non-existent.
Since January, he has opened a website for his restaurant (, a blog and a Facebook account to reach out to the privileged few in Cuba with Internet access and to international visitors.
He gives regular customers a discount on their meals and is offering Cuban cooking classes to foreign tourists.
On the blog, he has a photo at La Casa of him, his mother, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and British actor Clive Owen.
Other paladares are offering 24-hour service, home delivery and frequent-diner plans -- once you've had $1,000 worth of meals, you get a free one worth $100.
"You always have to be one step ahead so the competition doesn't catch up to you," Robaina said. "Let the competition come."
Castro's reforms also aim to infuse new thinking in state-run enterprises.
The government recently took foreign journalists to state-owned plants and agricultural operations in central Ciego de Avila province where workers were paid based on production, not the usual state-set salary given to all whether they worked or not.
Most said they earned double or triple the country's average monthly salary equivalent to $20 and were pleased about it.
"I'm working six days a week, but I am very happy," said one female worker as she cleaned a recently harvested red cabbage.
"The key thing is that the one who works hard gets the benefits," said Jorge Felix Martin Iglesias, overseer of agricultural production for the provincial Communist Party.
If all this smacks vaguely of capitalism, there are reminders that Cuba is still communist.
Nelson Blanco, chief executive of a large state-run farming and food processing operation, said his monthly pay was equivalent to about $40, which was less than most of his workers. It was only fair, he explained.
"The worker that does the most physical labor, the most work, is the one that earns most ... the one that's on the land under the sun with his hoe," Blanco said. "I am very much in agreement."
Cuba's malaise is tied in part to state domination of all aspects of the economy, so Castro hopes greater emphasis on private initiative will increase productivity and prosperity.
Castro has said it planned to hand out 250,000 self-employment licenses, but as that number quickly approaches it looks likely to go beyond it. Castro wants to cut 1 million workers, or 20 percent of the workforce, from government payrolls and needs something for them to do.
Whether his reforms will be sufficient to keep socialism afloat is unknown but a Cuban psychologist who asked not to be identified said they had had a positive effect on the population.
"People were dead before," he said. "Now at least they are thinking, trying to come up with ideas for businesses, even if they are small ones."
Government opponents complain that bigger economic changes are needed, along with political reform away from the one-party state now in place.
But there has been little talk of the latter by Cuban leaders and, according to Richard, a newly licensed shoe repairman, no need for it.
"The Cuban cares about partying, dressing well and enjoying life," he said as he worked on a pair of women's shoes. "The Cuban doesn't care about politics or things like freedom of the press."
(Editing by Jane Sutton and Cynthia Osterman)

Revolutionary Cuba Now Lays Sand Traps for the Bourgeoisie

MEXICO CITY — One of Fidel Castro’s first acts upon taking power was to get rid of Cuba’s golf courses, seeking to stamp out a sport he and other socialist revolutionaries saw as the epitome of bourgeois excess.
Librado Romero/The New York Times
Tourists on the government-owned golf course in the Cuban resort area of Varadero Beach. It is now Cuba's only 18-hole course.


Rolls Press/Popperfoto, via Getty Images
Fidel Castro playing in his customary military fatigues in the early 1960s, in what some say was an effort to mock the sport.
Now, 50 years later, foreign developers say the Cuban government has swung in nearly the opposite direction, giving preliminary approval in recent weeks for four large luxury golf resorts on the island, the first in an expected wave of more than a dozen that the government anticipates will lure free-spending tourists to a nation hungry for cash.
The four initial projects total more than $1.5 billion, with the government’s cut of the profits about half. Plans for the developments include residences that foreigners will be permitted to buy — a rare opportunity from a government that all but banned private property in its push for social equality.
Mr. Castro and his comrade in arms Che Guevara, who worked as a caddie in his youth in Argentina, were photographed in fatigues hitting the links decades ago, in what some have interpreted as an effort to mock either the sport or the golf-loving president at the time of the revolution, Dwight D. Eisenhower — or both.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who maintains close ties with Cuba, has taken aim at the pastime in recent years as well, questioning why, in the face of slums and housing shortages, courses should spread over valuable land “just so some little group of the bourgeois and the petit bourgeois can go and play golf.”
But Cuba’s deteriorating economy and the rise in the sport’s popularity, particularly among big-spending travelers who expect to bring their clubs wherever they go, have softened the government’s view, investors said. Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment, but Manuel Marrero, the tourism minister, told a conference in Europe this month that the government anticipates going forward with joint ventures to build 16 golf resorts in the near future.
For the past three years, Cuba’s only 18-hole course, a government-owned spread at the Varadero Beach resort area, has even hosted a tournament. It has long ceased to be, its promoters argued, a rich man’s game.
“We were told this foray is the top priority in foreign investment,” said Graham Cooke, a Canadian golf course architect designing a $410 million project at Guardalavaca Beach, along the island’s north coast about 500 miles from Havana, for a consortium of Indians from Canada. The company, Standing Feather International, says it signed a memorandum of agreement with the Cuban government in late April and will be the first to break ground, in September.
Andrew Macdonald, the chief executive of London-based Esencia Group, which helps sponsor the golf tournament in Cuba and is planning a $300 million country club in Varadero, said, “This is a fundamental development in having a more eclectic tourist sector.”
The other developments are expected to include at least one of the three proposed by Leisure Canada, a Vancouver-based firm that recently announced a licensing agreement with the Professional Golfers Association for its planned resorts in Cuba, and a resort being designed by Foster & Partners of London.
The projects are primarily aimed at Canadian, European and Asian tourists; Americans are not permitted to spend money on the island, under the cold-war-era trade embargo, unless they have a license from the Treasury Department.
Developers working on the new projects said they believed Cuba had a dozen or so courses before the revolution, some of which were turned into military bases. Cuba and foreign investors for years have talked about building new golf resorts, but the proposals often butted against revolutionary ideals and red tape. Several policy changes adopted at a Communist Party congress in April, however, appear to have helped clear the way, including one resolution specifically naming golf and marinas as important assets in developing tourism and rescuing the sagging economy.
“Cuba saw the normal sun and salsa beach offerings and knew it was not going to be sustainable,” said Chris Nicholas, managing director of Standing Feather, which negotiated for eight years with Cuba’s state-run tourism company. “They needed more facets of tourism to offer and decided golf was an excellent way to go.”
The developers said putting housing in the complexes was important to make them more attractive to tourists and investors, and to increase profits.
Still, John Kavulich, a senior adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said Cuba had a history of pulling back on perceived big steps toward freer enterprise and might wrestle to explain how such high-dollar compounds could coexist with often dilapidated housing for everyone else.
“Will Cuba allow Cuban citizens to be members, to play?” he said. “How will that work out? Allowing someone to work there and allowing someone to prosper there is an immense deep ravine for the government.”
But Mr. Macdonald said political issues were moot, given that Cuba already had come to terms with several beach resorts near Havana that generally attracted middle-class foreign travelers.
“It’s not an issue for them,” he said. “It’s tourism. It’s people coming to visit the country.”
If the projects are built as envisioned, the tourists will enjoy not just new, state-of-the-art courses and the opportunity for a second home in Cuba, but shopping malls, spas and other luxury perks. Standing Feather, which calls its complex Estancias de Golf Loma Linda (Loma Linda Golf Estates), promises 1,200 villas, bungalows, duplexes and apartments set on 520 acres framed by mountains and beach.
The residences are expected to average $600,000, and rooms at the 170-room hotel the complex will include may go for about $200 a night, a stark contrast in a nation where salaries average $20 a month.
Standing Feather said that to build a sense of community and provide the creature comforts of home among its clientele, the complex will include its own shopping center, selling North American products under relaxed customs regulations.
“It is in the area that Castro is from, in Holguin Province,” added Mr. Cooke, the golf course architect.