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PostCastro and Franco Compared (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 12/10/16 8:39 am)
I read Ángel Viñas's 9 December post with amazement and some disappointment. If I understand correctly, to make a comparison between Franco and Castro, Ángel basically seems to argue, in points 3, 4 and 7, that Franco was more of a villain than Castro because he was responsible for more killings, murders or deaths. I find this argument preposterous.
According to that logic, it is going to be hard to decide who is more evil--Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or any other bloodthirsty dictator. The truth is that it does not matter how many people died because of them. It is not a question of numbers. It does not matter if one or two, hundreds or thousands of people died. They are responsible for the same crimes and they are all criminal of the same kind.
Castro is not different from any of the others in this respect. The "need to overcome the brothel cum mafia-dominated US dependency" is not enough an excuse or justification for Castro.
In any case, with all my respect and reluctance to make the demographic argument valid, if "numbers" ever matter, the ones mentioned by Ángel are likely to be subjected to speculation and verification. Besides, they are absolute numbers. If calculated in relative numbers, Castro´s would be probably higher.
Ángel also argues as a comparison, point 7, that "Cuba had to face US harassment all along... Without US and Western support, he (Franco) would not have engineered the return to the world economy in 1959." Ángel seems to forget that despite the huge amount of resources provide by Russia, later from Venezuela, or from the US$2 billion each year sent to the Island from relatives and friends abroad, the people in Cuba are still under a dictatorship, suffering precarious living standards.
Ángel posed this question regarding Spain: "Do those 2,700 people killed in Spain justify a military and right-wing-supported rebellion which led to half a million deaths and another half a million drop in births?" In an ethical and moral sense, the answer is certainly negative, but the historical conditions for starting wars and bloody conflicts are regrettably never a question of ethics. Perhaps more frequently they are due to economics, political power, personal ambition, ideology or religion.
One final question, was it justified to start a bloody "revolution" in Cuba, causing 50+ years of repression and political persecution, to replace a dictatorship by a more severe regime--absolutist, despotic, corrupt, nepotistic and dictatorial? To me the answer is clear.
JE comments: The "body count" argument is a grim exercise. By this logic, Pol Pot comes out more benign than, say, Mao, or Stalin. What I've found in the Castro v Franco comparison is that your preference tends to say more about you than about Castro or Franco.
To my mind, Franco's one saving grace is that his death resulted in a functioning democracy and relative prosperity for Spain. So far, this has not been the case for Cuba.
Castro and Franco Compared
(Carmen Negrin, -France
12/11/16 5:45 AM)
Ángel Víñas (9 December) is correct to look at the numbers in the Franco-Castro comparison. I would even add some more:
1. From figures given by a Mexican writer, V. Maldonado, who researched the matter for a few years, through French documentation, the number of Spanish exiles was five and a half times higher than Ángel's figure: around 530,000. Of course this number is not precise. Some like Gregorio Marañón left at the beginning of the war and returned as soon as possible after it was over. Others, about a quarter of a million, induced by the French Petainist authorities, themselves pushed by the Francoist authorities, returned naively to Spain just after the war, only to be sent to jail in the best of cases. Most were sent to French concentration camps, others to forced labour, and others to German concentration camps.
2. Then we have the incalculable number, hundreds of thousands, of so-called economic immigrants who left Spain after the war, because they were barred from working because of their Republican past.
3. To that you add the stolen children, also an unknown number, but over 10,000.
Whichever way you look at it, Franco was the fifth highest murderer of the very bloody 20th century, and if one looks at the percentage of the population, perhaps even closer to the top.
But, in addition, the difference between Franco and Fidel is also what were they each fighting for? It is not a very different thing to liberate a country from, among other things, generalized prostitution and a dictator, than to go against the will of the majority? At least at the beginning, Fidel was not against the majority.
This is why, as Ángel rightly says, we have to give some time to see what is actually left of Fidel's so-called revolution. Will the legacy be full education and health services or will it be the material poverty and repression?
Personally I have worked in several Caribbean countries, and Cuba had nothing to be particularly ashamed about. Freedom of speech was not the best, granted, but I can tell you I wouldn't feel any better explaining my political point of views in front of a Trumpist Evangical policeman, to give an example!
After having seen the Cuban protesters gather in the Peruvian Embassy, I saw them some time latter sleeping in tents in the middle of Lima. Not much better off (and much colder!).
I also remember the queues in front of the US diplomatic mission in Havana, and asking some of them what they expected from the US. The answers I got were "new jeans" or similar. A few days later in the Miami airport, I recall overhearing a conversation between a young Cuban lady who had just arrived and the man who came to pick her up. He explained to her that he could not help her out, she had to work and was basically on her own, but he could help her if she accepted becoming a prostitute.
I will never forget the expression of this young woman. It was heartbreaking. If she could have run back home, I suppose she would have done so immediately.
JE comments: How much freedom of speech exists in Cuba? Looks like we'll find out in October.
Carmen Negrín's comments beg the question of where you'd prefer to live if you're on society's lowest economic rung. Everyone will have his or her preference. Cuba at least provides basic services, with an emphasis on the basic part. And when everyone is poor, except for the highest of the political elite, you don't feel so poor.
Or not? Does seeing other people's wealth inspire you to work harder?
Freedom of Speech and Religion in Cuba
(Timothy Ashby, -Spain
12/14/16 8:32 AM)
JE asked on December 11th: "How much freedom of speech exists in Cuba? Looks like we'll find out in October."
In my (recent) experience, Cubans from all walks of life (including government officials) speak quite freely about the dire state of the economy, the slothful bureaucracy, and international affairs (Cubans are well educated and very aware of what is happening in other parts of the world, especially the USA). Remarkably, the Raúl Castro's government has encouraged criticism of the bureaucracy, even from Ministers of State. Public criticism of the government is taboo, but Cubans will do so privately if they trust you. The local Chinese community as well as the Catholic Church publish their own newspapers, but these are tolerated because the government is lauded and never criticised.
By the way, the Cuban Jewish diaspora that took place after the Revolution is now being reversed and both elderly and young Jews are returning from Miami and New Jersey. There are five synagogues on the island--three in Havana, including an orthodox one. In 1992 the Cuban government changed the national Constitution to allow freedom of religion. When I was in Havana a few years ago, a Baptist revival was being advertised in a hall near the Capitolio.
After meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican last year, Raúl Castro said: "When the Pope comes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses and I will be happy to do so." He told reporters that he reads all of the speeches of Latin America's first pope, and added "If the Pope continues to talk as he does, sooner or later I will start praying again and return to the Catholic Church, and I am not kidding." The Pope held an open air mass in the Plaza de la Revolución attended by over 200,000 people--a great irony considering the massive iconic images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos overlooking the ceremony.
John further wrote: "Carmen Negrín's comments beg the question of where you'd prefer to live if you're on society's lowest economic rung. Everyone will have his or her preference. Cuba at least provides basic services, with an emphasis on the basic part. And when everyone is poor, except for the highest of the political elite, you don't feel so poor. Or not? Does seeing other people's wealth inspire you to work harder?"
In Cuba, not everyone is poor. As I previously wrote, there is a growing middle class of Cuban entrepreneurs. Restaurants and nightclubs are packed with local Cubans (young people at popular nightclubs wear the latest trendy fashions, all have mobile phones, and many have cars or motorcycles). However, the majority of the population is quite poor by US standards. There is undoubtedly a growing economic disparity between black and white or mestizo Cubans. This is not due to racism as the government is very aware of the problem and trying to alleviate it (without much success). A few years ago I visited an orphanage outside of Havana in which all of the children were black. The matroness (herself black) told me that black people abandoned children while the whites always took in foundlings because "Tenían una cultura más fuerte." I don't know if this is true, but it is a good demonstration of the complexities of Cuban culture.
JE comments: "They had a stronger culture." Or should it be have/"tienen"? Race identity in Cuban society has never been divided on the black/white lines so clearly delineated in the US. It's much more fluid, although there still is a system where your skin tone more or less corresponds to your rung on the social ladder. I hope others will comment.
Poverty and Income Distribution in Cuba
(Carmen Negrin, -France
12/15/16 5:11 AM)
I do agree with Timothy Ashby (14 December) that there are differences in wealth across Cuba, according to the political position or simply to the jobs. For instance, those in contact with tourists make more, and doctors are particularly expensive for tourists if they don't go to a regular local hospital. But with a few powerful exceptions, poverty is still quite well shared; I remember that diplomats had a special place where they would lend them clothes before going on mission to cold countries. This was some time ago. I suppose that with income coming in from Cuban emigration, differences are even larger now.
JE comments: WAISer Tim Brown is an authority on remittances and their impact on Latin America's economies. Tim: are remittances to Cuba increasing, now that the US has relaxed its travel restrictions? I can see the opposite happening: travelers are smuggling in cash, and not going through the official channels. Don't the Cuban authorities get a cut of all wired money transfers?
- Freedom of Speech and Income Equality in Cuba (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 12/16/16 8:57 AM)
I'd like to make a comment in reference to Timothy Ashby's post of December 13th, and our editor´s question, ""How much freedom of speech exists in Cuba?"
First, I completely agree with Tim's comments about freedom of speech on the Island. I had the same experience, particularly about criticizing the government. Tim further wrote, "In Cuba, not everyone is poor." I would also agree here, except it is perhaps necessary to add that the "growing middle class of Cuban entrepreneurs" is very limited, and the nascent middle class is probably connected to the government bureaucracy, public officials and the military, all of which in Cuba enjoy many privileges the majority of Cubans do not have. Private entrepreneurship is very limited, private property is subject to a lot of control, and I doubt there are great opportunities for successful private businesses to make people rich.
In any case, the question of Freedom in Cuba reminded me of the Four Freedoms declaration of FDR on January 6, 1941, that people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear.
These freedoms were basic, though not complete. In recent times more liberties have been mentioned that are considered to be fundamental for a society. For example, freedom of association, freedom of public meetings, political freedom and thought, freedom of movement and transportation, freedom of private property, etc. These categories of freedom would be an excellent set of criteria to assess to what extent societies enjoy freedom today, not only for Cuba but for any other nation.
In my view, the answer to these questions in Cuba´s case is clear: there is little freedom. The answer in Venezuela´s case is more difficult to assess.
A final comment about JE's remark, "Race identity in Cuban society has never been divided along black/white lines." This is true and not exclusive to Cuba. It is my opinion that this is pretty much the same thing in all Latin American countries, with more or less intensity in the mountain regions, which are more traditional and conservative and somehow more racist, and the Caribbean or coastal regions, which are less traditional, with more open cultures and customs.
The reason for this is that all Latin societies are basically "mestizo" (mixed-race), mostly from Spanish, Portuguese, together with Italian, Native American, Black and many other minority migrations, from Germany, France, Holland and England. I believe there are DNA studies that conclude that the "Latin" race mix is on average about 40% European, 30% African and 30% Native American. Of course these proportions varies much between regions.
There might be social and economical differences in racial classes, but "racism," a radical division between blacks and whites, is less common. For instance in Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador or Colombia, to call somebody with the N-word, "mira Negro," is not generally considered offensive or politically incorrect. Many times it is a friendly way of referring to him or her. The N-word is in reference to the color of the skin, not to a racial or racist issue, and these are not necessarily related.
JE comments: To illustrate the above, I was doing some numismatic research when editing José Ignacio Soler's previous post on Venezuela's 100-bolivar banknote, and I learned that the now-worthless 5-bolivar bill features "Negro Primero," as the Afro-Venezuelan independence hero Pedro Camejo is commonly known. Imagine featuring a "First Negro" on a banknote in the Anglosphere. Unacceptable.
Camejo is now scheduled for an "upgrade," to the new 1000-bolivar bills.
Tim Ashby (next) has sent a new comment on Cuba policy under Trump.
Latin American Societies and "Mestizo" Identity
(Timothy Brown, USA
12/17/16 5:13 AM)
Apparently, I spent the last fifty+ years living in and/or doing research on a very different Latin America.
In my "Latin America," Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were, by a wide margin, European in origin, the populations of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador were made up largely of indigenous and at least partially unassimilated peoples of a myriad of different tribal origins, as were major regions in Mexico (Yucatán, Chiapas, etc.), Guatemala and Colombia. Jamaica and Bahamas were nations of English speakers of African origin, Haitians and France's three department in the Americas (Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana) of Creole French, Surinamers a Dutch patois--I could go on.
I've also spent many years studying the region's indigenous peoples, Nahuas, Maya, Chibcha, Miskito, Sumu, Rama, although, according to some linguists, I have a few thousand more others to go. I've even been accused by a couple of academics of having discovered a "lost tribe," which seems a bit much. Still, to quote my younger self:
"History. the art of trying to know the past in order to understand the present, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the future, is lived by all but written by few."
("Nahuas, Gachupines, Patriarchs and Piris--Nicaraguan History Through Highland Peasant Eyes," Journal of American Culture, winter 1997).
I've also published articles expressing a very different view of modern Latin America than the one expressed in José Ignacio Soler's posting of 16 December. I've accused our ethnocentric promotion of democracy and capitalism as we understand them as unintentionally being the primary cause of much of today's socio-political unrest in the region. And again, I quote myself:
"In the industrialized democracies, free elections, the lowering of trade barriers and the opening of national economies to foreign competition are natural progressions within open systems. But in the Latin American context, where rule by oligarchy and inbred political-social-economic systems have been the norm, participatory democracy, one-man-one-vote elections, the opening of economies, and free trade are revolutionary processes subversive of the established order." (Policy Studies Review, summer 1998).
Put another way, it's not just Marxism that preaches revolution by undermining the existing order and replacing it with a "better" one. So do democracy and capitalism.
As for what my WAIS colleagues think of such revolutionary thoughts, any and all incoming slings and arrows tossed my way will be cheerfully dodged.
JE comments: Unfettered trade received a big blow in the United States this year, too--as well as in the UK.
As Tim Brown rightly argues, the notion of Latin Americans as a "mestizo" people does not take into account the vast differences among and within nations and geographies. Ironically, the word "mestizo," which refers to diversity, can overlook diversity. The Mexican educator and historian José Vasconcelos coined the term "La Raza Cósmica" in an essay from 1925. Vasconcelos saw the hybrid Latin Americans as a chosen people. In the 1950s, Ronald Hilton conducted a four-part interview with Vasconcelos. The tapes are housed in the RH Archives, Hoover Institution. The Hoover staff was kind enough to make me a copy. It's a gem of a historical artifact.
The notion of Argentina and Chile as fundamentally European nations is also debatable, and could be the result of the "whitening" rhetoric of the Criollo elites during the 19th century. The iconic Argentine gaucho, for example, was often a person of combined Indigenous, European, and African ancestry.
Latin America and Race
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
12/18/16 6:06 AM)
One of the reasons I enjoy this Forum is that it offers opportunities to contrast and discuss opinions, beliefs, arguments, expositions, perceptions and many other personal reflections and experiences. This is a response to Timothy Brown's essay on Latin American racial identity (17 December).
If I understood well, Tim might be in disagreement with my statement that Latin societies are basically "mestizo" (mixed-race), or maybe with my statement, "I believe there are DNA studies that conclude that the Latin American 'race' mix is on average about 40% European, 30% African and 30% Native American." Of course, I added that "these proportions varies much between regions."
Evidently I am not an expert in racial or ethnic issues and I was not trying to make a scientific statement of facts with the numbers I cited. Nor would I dare to argue with Tim, his studies or articles on the subject. I can only speak from my personal experience and perceptions of living 50+ years in the region.
My purpose was not to quote accurate figures about the racial composition of the region. Rather, I was trying to support the argument that there is no radical racism or red lines that separate blacks and whites. It would be socially unacceptable or difficult for anybody in the region to claim he/she belongs to a "pure" racial origin or ancestry lines, and therefore inclined towards racism, because the great majority are of a mixed or uncertain racial origin, even if they have a white or black/dark skin color.
I did some additional research, and found dozens of demographic and ethnic studies on the subject. They all differ in terms, definitions, classification concepts and numbers. However, their conclusions seems to be similar, that Latin America is a mixed-race continent of Europeans, Amerindians, Africans and small proportion of Asians; of course the mix proportions are different among the countries.
In contrast, I dare to guess that North America might also be a continent populated by immigrants from Europe, Africa, Asia together with Indigenous natives, but probably the ancestry lines are less mixed than in South America.
The following graphic is more instructive than a list of figures: Does Latin America not look like a mixed-race continent?
JE comments: See below. The graphics are fuzzy, but they still provide much fodder for conversation. I didn't find many surprises, except the claim that the eastern part of Cuba is primarily "Europid," which presumably means white. I had always understood Cuba's Oriente region to have more African influence than the rest of the country, although the Santiago region is also home to many descendants of the French Creole elite that escaped from Haiti in the early 1800s.
Perhaps Francisco Wong-Díaz or one of WAISdom's Cuba-watching Tims (Brown and Ashby) could comment?
Latin America and Race
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
12/20/16 5:02 AM)
In general, I am glad that humans are increasingly of mixed races. Given the overwhelming evidence, today only an ignoramus would still believe in racial superiority or inferiority. On the other hand, I will really miss cultural diversity. It has been so much fun to go to some different culture and enjoy their differences, their environments, food, stories, folklores and religious beliefs, their morals, etc. Some years ago my Portuguese partner was very excited and insisted on driving a few miles out of the way from the airport to his home. He wanted to show me something new and special. We drove to his large multilevel parking garage and walked into this multilevel mall with all the usual American and European stores, including McDonald's and KFC. I had difficulty not revealing my disappointment, and immediately asked to go a local restaurant that existed nowhere else in the world.
On the other hand, racism, like religion, talk, feeling, and behavior, may differ dramatically. Racism has surprised strongly on many occasions. Even in a mixed-race country like Brazil, I heard a mother (very nice lady otherwise) tell her son who had been flirting with a beautiful and apparently very intelligent black girl, that she wanted no blacks in the family. In another case, this also otherwise nice lady, told me her family had always voted Democratic. I could not resist and asked if she was voting for Obama. She promptly replied no, because she could not imagine a black man in the White House.
While such stories are common, there are others even more interesting. For example, we all know how racially proud and homogeneous Japan is. So I expected a little more racism than what happened in this case: a young Japanese lady went to Senegal as a UN aid worker, fell in love and got married to a well-spoken "black as coal" Senegalese young man. When they moved back to Japan a few months later, the Japanese local community got together and openly adopted the young man into their midst as one of their own. Talking to him about his experience was incredible, due to the degree of humanity in the whole affair.
In general, my racial differences/acceptance experience has been somewhat surprising. A superficial look seems to indicate that racial superiority is a product of fear, but what were the Nazis afraid of? I don't know. My impression is that stronger cultures are more comfortable with other races in their midst. Not only Japan, but Germany, the Scandinavian nations, etc. Mixed-race nations seems to be sociologically more diverse but individual psychology still shows remnants of racism. I need more education on this.
JE comments: Stronger or more homogeneous? I agree with Tor Guimaraes, that cultures with less "natural" diversity would view the Other more as a novelty than a threat. This is certainly the case in Japan, where some Gaijin can even make a career out of being a foreigner.
Are "Homogeneous" Societies Less Racist? Mussolini on Race
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
12/21/16 6:10 AM)
As usual, our esteemed moderator has pinpointed the problem about race and racism. (See John E's comment on the excellent post of Tor Guimaraes, 20 December.)
In my hometown of Savona, the first black man who arrived from Congo in the mid 1960s was extremely well accepted. Everybody liked him, a job was immediately found for him, and he married a cousin of mine, a professional classical guitarist. They had three children, and one of them went to sea.
Years later, a Moroccan arrived selling carpets. When he would go into the bar near my home, there was always someone offering him coffee or whatever. Many would purchase from him even if they did not need the stuff.
Now there are thousands of immigrants. They justifiably want to maintain their customs but they also want money, housing, and women (they are mostly young men), and now the local people are sick and tired of them.
But "racism" is widespread all over the world. Once when I was in Mena Saud, my Saudi skipper, rather brownish, asked me if we Italians liked black people. At first I was assuming that he was referring to himself, as he was not white as the Europeans (50 years ago), and I confirmed to him that the Italians did not have prejudice against black people. He answered: "Very bad; the Negroes should only be slaves." I found racism all over. Very surprisingly to me, the "less bad racists" were many white South Africans, who considered black people in their nation as children to be taken care of.
In Italy we had a silly law on "Defence of the Race" in 1938.
The famous Emil Ludwig (Emil Cohn 1881-1948) had an interview with Mussolini in 1932 reported in the book Talks with Mussolini. The Duce stated: "Of course a pure race does not exist, not even the Jewish one. But from happy mixtures strength and beauty are born. Race is a sentiment, not a reality; 95% is sentiment."
Referring to Italy in 1938, Mussolini wrote to his sister Edvige, "Purity of race in this nation, through which many invasions have passed and which has absorbed so many peoples from the four cardinal points, is a myth."
Contrary to the silly interpretations of the Defence of the Race in 1941, the philosopher Julius Evols in his book Sintesi di Dottrina della Razza, recommended by the same Mussolini (see Renzo De Felice Storia degli Ebrei italiani sotto il fascismo and also Filippo Giannini), he presented his thesis on racism.
"Materialistic racism is not important but rather the racism of the spirit is important. Not the physical race of blood or skin but a spiritual race, independent of the ethnic mixtures, that should aim for a new man/woman full of virtues."
JE comments: Is "paternalistic" race thinking, as in the case of white South Africans cited by Eugenio Battaglia, still racism? Most would argue that it is. Look no further than the "White Man's Burden" school of thought in the 19th century. I hope John Torok, WAISworld's "critical race theorist," will add a comment.
- Latin America and Race (Timothy Brown, USA 12/20/16 6:19 AM)
The saying may not be off the mark that "there are lies, damn lies and statisticians." Or, maybe José Ignacio Soler (19 December) and I are both right.
If you lump together the ethic origins of everyone in Latin America rather than taking in to account the region's vast differences country by country, the statistical results of the one will be very different from the other, as would happen if you lump all together all the countries of South America rather than differentiating between Brazil, Chile and Guyane Francaise--the latter is more than 90% black, since there are no Native Americans, with most of the rest (not counting transient NATO military, clerks or Euroespace rocket specialists) being Chinese. And this doesn't count the PRC personnel manning their version of "La Voz de América," or Laotian Hmongs.
For that matter, if you lump together everyone in any region you'll get a false positive. The ethnic makeup of Asia as a whole will be very different from the separate makeups of China, India or Japan. The same holds true for Africa if you mask the ethic differences between, say Egyptians and Equatorial Guineans, by lumping them together with the rest of Africa. The same would, of course, also hold true for the Middle East, Europe or, for that matter, the UN.
(If, by now you're baffled, bored or both, please feel to stop reading here, since the following is a bit pedantic. But, if not quite asleep yet, at least you've been forewarned.}
And as for the Americas you lump together everyone in the Americas south of Tijuana, the question still remains: How do you differentiate between Native Americans and mestizos? A couple of examples. The last Mexican national census prior to the Mexican Revolution determined that 90% of the population of Ciudad Juárez was "indio" while the next census, twenty odd years after the Revolution, determined that 90% of the population of Juárez was now mestizo.
When I asked myself as part of my doctoral dissertation research when and how does a Native American go from being an "indio" to being a "mestizo," the answer turned out to be "it all depends" on whether you're interested in a cultural or genetic definition. On the cultural side the identity of a person or group then depends on who or what you want to believe. For example, if you're interested in the region around Puebla, Mexico, there's one method. There, if you dress in city garb, live in a European-style house, eat non-native foods and speak primarily Spanish, you're a mestizo. If, on the other hand, you dress mostly in indigenous clothing, live in a "native" hut not a house, speak primarily a native American language and eat "native" foods, then you're an "indio." Sounds good--until you speak both languages, enjoy the recipes of both and change your clothes when you go from your country home to the big city. Or, if you prefer the genetics approach, then you wind up deciding who's an "indio" and who's a "mestizo" by using the results of blood samples to genotype a person or group based on the mitochondria in their DNA. That way you come up with a "more scientific," or at least more complicated, result. Of course, if you want to mix the two and toss in some glottochronology, you'll may get yet a third result.
Unfortunately, I was researching the 80% of the Contras that were from a region that no one I could find, not even in Nicaragua, had ever studied, the native population of Nicaragua's Segovian highlands even though that region was the home of between 47% and 52% of the entire population of the country. No anthropology, no archeology, no genetics, no sociology, nothing--not counting one essay on the region's trees--and a paper by two glotochronologists, both of them Costa Rican university professors.
The only research papers on the Contras I could find turned out to be once secret reports written by the State Department or CIA, and I didn't have ten years to wait for their declassification. And when, years after I'd finished my dissertation, I got them, I discovered to my amazement that despite having spent ten years and well over $250 million while working with the Contras daily, they hadn't a clue who the Contras really had been, although you'll have to wait for my next book for the details.
JE comments: There's culture, there's DNA, and then there is politics. The latter is probably the reason post-Revolutionary Mexico became overwhelmingly mestizo. See our earlier references to José Vasconcelos and his "Raza Cósmica."
Tim: I'd be fascinated to hear more about the PRC's broadcasts in Latin America.
- Tim Brown's "Lost Tribe"; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 12/19/16 4:37 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
Regarding Timothy Brown's post of December 17: During his Latin America studies, what was the "lost tribe" he discovered?
As Tim mentioned, Latin America's indigenous tapestry is so rich that there can be many surprises.
JE comments: I think Tim wrote about them in a post from years ago. Weren't the Lost People in the highlands of Nicaragua? Tim, am I correct?
I must quip the following, however: Lost to whom? I am reminded of John Heelan's memory of the time the Continent was "cut off" from England due to fog.
- Castro and Franco Compared (John Heelan, -UK 12/11/16 6:13 AM)
José Ignacio Soler (10 December) finds Ángel Viñas's comparison (9 December) of Franco and Castro "preposterous."
I find any comparison of tyrants by the concept of volume measurements of their misdeeds itself preposterous and akin to comparing waterboarding to torture by electricity to decide which is the more heinous. As John E rightly points out, "The 'body count' argument is a grim exercise. By this logic, Pol Pot comes out more benign than, say, Mao or Stalin."
We should remember John Donne's "No Man is an Island" and "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."
JE comments: Then there's Stalin's horrifying comment: "A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic."
As I said yesterday, ranking dictatorial tyrants--or are they tyrannical dictators?--invariably tells us more about the ranker than the "rankees." Stalin or Hitler? Fidel or Pinochet? And why is Mao so often overlooked? Is it because in China, the body count is "naturally" assumed to be higher?
And here's the Devil's Advocate again: isn't nuking two Japanese cities an act of genocidal evil? How about burning Dresden to the ground?
"Body Counts" and the Historian's Duty
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
12/12/16 4:19 AM)
I agree with John Heelan (December 11) and José Ignacio Soler (December 10) that counting deaths like beans is a grim exercise. I however wonder what they think of the academic discussions on this particular subject relating to the Nazi and Soviet dictatorships. They are wide-ranging and deep.
Let me put forward a purely hypothetical question. What in their view would the reaction be if somebody with a certain reputation (let´s say a David Irving bis) were to allege that the estimated 6 million victims of the Holocaust were wildly overblown, because the most likely figure were just a million? (I chose this figure because it is the most widely used for the deaths occurred during the bloody purges in the USSR in 1937/38.) My answer is that it would rightly lead to a tremendous uproar.
For Spain, both John and José Ignacio are referred to Paul Preston´s The Spanish Holocaust. For an estimated figure of people who "disappeared" during the Spanish Civil War (more or less 114,000), see the New York Times of December 8.
I submit that the refusal to deal with the qualitative and quantitative aspects of Franco´s bloody repression in Spain during the war and the postwar years has more to do with the ideological point of view of the "reductionists" than with the intrinsic historic merits of the subject. Why? Simply because a murderous Franco does not fit into the legend created and maintained in the English-speaking world that he was a dictator but "our" dictator, and therefore somehow a more benevolent one.
In response to John Eipper, I would argue that history is the critical analysis of human behaviour in the past and that no aspect of this behaviour should be excluded. The repression in Spain is an integral part of Spanish history. If the Spanish right wing, military, ecclesiastical and civilian, rose up in arms against the Republic in 1936, it was for a number of reasons. It´s the duty of the historian to subject those reasons to critical scrutiny. The only one being sustained today is the alleged "anarchy" and "violence" in the spring of 1936. I wish colleagues were to read the uninterrupted flow of research dealing with this topic being produced in Spain. I´m prepared to submit a reading list.
I repeat, I don´t like dictatorships, either on the left or the right. We contemplate the Franco regime today at a 40-year distance and the benefit of more or less open archives. I simply don´t know how history, and in particular Cuban historians will contemplate Castro 40 years hence.
JE comments: Here is Dan Hancock's recent NYT op-ed, "The Ghosts Spain Tries to Ignore." One would think all the questions about the SCW's victims have been answered by now (except for García Lorca's grave), but this is not the case.
Regarding Mussolini's "body count," see Eugenio Battaglia (next).
Dead and Missing under Franco
(Carmen Negrin, -France
12/13/16 11:01 AM)
Just an additional comment to add to Ángel Viñas's post of December 12th, concerning the number of disappeared Spaniards under Franco:
143,353 is the exact figure corresponding to the number of documented disappearances presented by the Judge Garzón, gathered by individuals and associations and taken to court more than 70 years after the events took place. Figures count, because they represent real people. And that is why higher or lower figures do make a difference.
The total figures are probably higher, since not all disappearances were documented. The location of many mass graves are still to be found: several regions refused to give this information.
Eugenio Battaglia's account of Mussolini's murders makes me think of recent comments by the vice president of the Franco foundation.
According to him, there were a mere 23,000 people killed by Franco and all after "regular" courts-martial of course; I guess that for him those who were not court-martialed don't count and never existed, or took off on holiday to France or Mexico, as they used to say to many of the widows.
This brings up the question of the quality of the Transition and the awareness of what really happened. Apparently a very high percentage of Spanish youth has no idea who Franco was. Thus the need for historians but also for the willingness of the government to relay the information through schools.
What is more important is that people still care. Two and three generations after these murders took place, families of the so-called Reds are still looking for their loved ones. This is not the case for the rebels who have been unearthed and honoured.
JE comments: The VP of the Franco Foundation seems to be very satisfied with his argument: "only" 23,000 were shot, even though 36,000 had been condemned to death.
- Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Genocidal Evil? (Timothy Brown, USA 12/13/16 5:43 AM)
Recently we've been discussing whether or not the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were acts of genocide. As I recall, we also discussed this peripherally a while back under the term democide. May I suggest we inject at least a little historical context and a few facts into the discussion?
By most of the estimates I've seen, about 70-75,000 were killed and 60,000 wounded in Hiroshima and 75,000 killed and 75,000 wounded in Nagasaki by those bombings. (I use wounded, not injured, because all were victims of acts of war.) Myriad condemnations of the United States and its allies, including by those perpetually critical of the US regardless, for having, with those two bombings, the "Empire" committed horrendous and presumably unnecessary and unforgivable atrocities almost invariably follow. What never seem to follow are any facts or discussion of historical context.
I suggest that we take into account a few of the facts. One that has not been extensively discussed, albeit not in recent postings on WAIS, has been that the only reasonable alternative was to invade the Japanese homeland. At the time the alternatives being considered involved several different amphibious assaults followed by extended land warfare on Japanese soil. No one could say then, nor can anyone say with certainty today, what the cost in lives and wounded both to Japan's military and civilian populations and the Allied military. According to one set of pre-battle estimates by the Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Allied forces had to be prepared to suffer approximately 247,000 KIAs (killed in action), and 991,000, wounded or missing in action (WIAs or MIAs). Estimates by others ran as high as 1 million Allied KIAs. There were also estimates of the number of casualties the Japanese military might suffer that ran as high as 4-5 million (most of Japan's remaining armed forces), but none I could find of unavoidable Japanese civilian casualties.
Prior to the use of two nuclear weapons that caused Japan to surrender, by some estimates Japan had inflicted on countries it invaded and occupied between 3 and 20 million deaths, most of them knowingly and deliberately inflicted by Japan's military on unarmed civilians. These acts, by today's standards, could reasonably be called genocidal. To be fair, as democides go (you may want to Goggle "democide" on this) committed by others, the Japanese were pikers, since during the 20th century an estimated 62 million civilians were killed by the Soviet Union, 35 million more by the Chinese, and another 50 million or so by the Nazis and lesser perps.
In my experience, and I attended several wars during my 37 years, 10 as Marine and 27 as a diplomat, there is no such thing as a war without casualties among non-combatants. But when considering all available alternatives (short of having Japan unexpectedly capitulate to the Allies--or the Allies surrendering to Japan--a rather unlikely alternative) based on the best available estimates, had I done the math I would have reached the same conclusion Truman did. Terrible as it was, and it was terrible, faced with the above realities, better 280,000 or so Japanese civilians be killed or wounded than the alternative--having 1 to 4 million Allied military, 4-5 million Japanese soldiers, and most probably a few million Japanese civilians, killed instead.
JE comments: Harry S Truman may have faced the gravest choice of the 20th century. Perhaps of all time. Without the benefit of hindsight, try to put yourself in his place. What would you have done?
Three aspects not mentioned by Tim Brown above: 1) Truman's political imperative to end the war quickly, which is connected to 2) The necessity of keeping the Soviets out of the Japan "theater." This very likely could have resulted in a divided postwar Japan, like Germany. Finally, on the other side, some historians argue that 3) Japan was on the verge of surrender in any case, prior to August 6th, and no Home Islands campaign would have been necessary.
Cameron Sawyer (next) begs to differ with the "Truman had to do it" interpretation.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Necessary Evils?
(Robert Gard, USA
12/13/16 8:05 AM)
Let me add a footnote to Tim Brown's analysis of December 13th, with which I agree.
The Japanese War Council voted to continue the war even after the atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima.
After Nagasaki, the Emperor took an unprecedented step, beyond his traditional role, by announcing surrender.
JE comments: Along the lines of "why Nagasaki," was there a Japanese city selected for a third atomic attack? The article below says Kokura, which had been the initial target for the second bombing:
- My Memories of the Japanese Surrender (Richard Hancock, USA 12/14/16 5:51 AM)
The Emperor of Japan spoke with the voice of the Shinto God on August 15, 1945, announcing the Japanese surrender. He formally signed a treaty aboard the battleship Missouri with Gen. MacArthur on September 2. As part of this treaty, Emperor Hirohito was to remain as the Japanese Emperor. MacArthur agreed with this because he knew that peace would be very precarious if the Emperor were required to resign. The absolute peaceful character of the US occupation proves the intelligence of MacArthur in maintaining the Emperor in his powerful position. In later memoirs, the Emperor said that he signed the treaty aboard the battleship Missouri because "he feared that the Japanese race would be destroyed if the war continued." The Japanese Minister of War committed seppuku, killing himself upon hearing the emperor's decision.
I was with the Americal Division, arriving as the Third Division in Japan on Sept, 10, 1945. It was grand to see the whole American Pacific fleet anchored in Yokohama harbor. I looked up at the bridge and saw the frightening sight of a Japanese pilot. He was the first live Japanese person that I had seen; others that I had seen lay dead on the battlefields in Cebu and Bohol in the Philippines. The one exception was a Japanese captain, a prisoner in the army field hospital because both of his legs had been blown off.
In early August, we were training for the invasion of Japan with fears that few of us would survive this attack. On the evening of August 15, 1945, we heard waves of artillery and small-arms fire and were told that the Emperor had surrendered and soldiers were celebrating by firing all of their weapons. One man in our outfit was hit in the shoulder by a stray bullet.
My point in relating this story is that when you have been involved in a life-or-death struggle with an implacable opponent, never known to surrender, your first thought is relief and celebration that you will survive and ultimately return to be with your loved ones. None of my fellow soldiers gave any thought to the morality of dropping an atomic bomb on the civilian population. They were overjoyed that they would be able to return home. We had lost three of our comrades on July 5, 1945, in addition to seven others who died before I joined the outfit. This seemed a mere prelude to the numerous casualties that we would suffer when we invaded Japan.
We spent our first three days in a combat perimeter in a Yokohama park. Whenever we left that camp, we carried our carbines (As combat medics, we were armed because the Japanese recognized the red cross as a target rather than a non-combat symbol). After three days, the MPs stopped us and ordered us to leave our arms in camp. This was an astonishing testimony to the power of the Emperor. When he said that the war was over, this ended the fierce hostility that we had experienced in combat. After that we often traveled on trains alone or in groups of two or three with the absolute assurance that we were safe. This is in contrast to what happened in Germany, where my two older brothers served. They said that they carried weapons even after the peace treaty was signed because they were always in danger of encountering some unreconstructed Nazis.
I spent 11 months in the Army of Occupation in Japan. During this period, I experienced no hostility at all. Of course, I could not speak Japanese other than a few phrases, but I met Japanese that could speak good English and never heard any expressions of discontent about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think they were happier than I was that the war was finally over.
JE comments: What a powerful reminder of the mood of the times. Ending the war was the priority on everyone's mind. And think of how many Allied and Japanese young men like Richard Hancock would not have survived an invasion of the Home Islands.
Another serviceman who was there: James G. Duggan, a Marine Second Lieutenant and David Duggan's father. David's post is next.
My Father during Japan's Surrender
(David Duggan, USA
12/14/16 7:46 AM)
In August 1945 my Second Lieutenant father (4th Marine Division, 24th Regiment) was on the island of Maui preparing to invade Japan. After Nagasaki, the US had no more nukes in its arsenal and the information was that they wouldn't have another until November. The idea was originally to invade the main island of Honshu, but was shifted to Kyushu, the southernmost island, where the population (and resistance) may be less and the late-autumn water might be a bit warmer for an amphibious landing after the beaches had been softened with the restocked nukes.
Fortunately (for him), that never happened. Dedicated WAISers might remember that seven years later, my father saw the last open-air nuclear detonation on this continent, in Nevada April 1952, when I was five months old. He had delayed his discharge by a month to witness this event.
JE comments: Here's James G. Duggan's fascinating 2005 narrative of witnessing "Operation Greenhouse." I cannot think of a name tinged with more irony.
David's father passed away in 2008:
- Hirohito, USS Missouri, and Japan's Surrender (David Pike, -France 01/17/17 7:31 PM)
Richard Hancock wrote on December 14th, 2016: "The Emperor of Japan...formally signed the treaty aboard the USS Missouri."
Hirohito was not on the Missouri. The Japanese group was led by the crippled Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu. It was signed later in the Imperial Palace. Is there a photo of it?
JE comments: My apologies to David Pike for misplacing this post. (Thanks, David, for the reminder!)
I did a brief image search, and did not see a photo of Hirohito signing the surrender. The closest I've found is of the Emperor signing Japan's post-war constitution.
- Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden: Genocidal Evil? (Cameron Sawyer, USA 12/13/16 7:23 AM)
JE wrote on 11 December: "And here's the Devil's Advocate again: isn't nuking two Japanese cities an act of genocidal evil? How about burning Dresden to the ground?"
We've discussed this before, but in my view, absolutely, these events are pure "genocidal evil." How else can you characterize the mass and indiscriminate destruction of tens of thousands of human lives in their homes, disproportionately women, children, old people, and (in the case of Nagasaki) Christian war protesters, since military-age men were mostly not at home? Mostly in a hideously grisly fashion by incineration or suffocation? What kind of self-delusion is required to twist that kind of barbarism into some kind of "military necessity"?
JE comments: Nagasaki, always one of the most open Japanese cities to the outside world, seemed like a strange choice for this horrific "honor." Have historians determined the who and the why of the decision?
- Castro and Franco, Again (Massoud Malek, USA 12/11/16 8:21 AM)
On December 10th, José Ignacio Soler wrote:
"According to [the logic of numbers murdered], it is going to be hard to decide who is more evil--Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or any other bloodthirsty dictator. The truth is that it does not matter how many people died because of them... It does not matter if one or two, hundreds or thousands of people died. They are responsible for the same crimes and they are all criminal of the same kind."
When I joined WAIS, I never expected to read posts like the one our editor posted about putting Castro on the same page as Hitler. The truth is that six million Jews perished because of a man called Hitler.
Up to 400,000 (or more) people in Spain were killed, raped, and tortured because of Franco. The mass killings of the Republican loyalists, liberals, Socialists, Trotskyists, Communists, Anarchists, Protestants, Freemasons, freethinkers, intellectuals, and people branded as Catalan and Basque separatists started in 1936 and continued until 1945.
From 1936 until his death in 1975, Francisco Franco tolerated only Catholicism. He banned the Catalan and Basque languages outside the home, forbade Catalan and Basque names for newborn babies, barred labor unions, and created a vast secret police network to spy on citizens. In mid-1940s, Franco himself admitted that he had 26,000 political prisoners under lock and key. He sympathized with Hitler and sent nearly 50,000 volunteers to fight alongside the Germans on the Soviet front.
When I visited the Killing Field in Cambodia, I had to walk over bones and teeth of victims of Pol Pot.
By some estimates, Stalin was responsible for the deaths of 20 million people during his brutal rule.
Under Castro's Cuba, no Jews were gassed, and Cubans experienced neither White Terror nor Red Terror. Nowhere in Cuba do you walk over human bones and teeth. Unlike China's famine under Mao, Cubans didn't starved to death under Castro. With a population of eleven million, it was impossible for Castro to kill 20 million Cubans.
I would like to make it clear to defenders of Hitler, Franco, Pinochet, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, that according to my logic, the numbers matter.
Finally, should WAIS 2017 move to neighboring Haiti in order to please some WAISers?
JE comments: Grim math, and a grim topic, but José Ignacio Soler was not "comparing" Castro to Hitler--to Franco, yes.
- Hirohito, USS Missouri, and Japan's Surrender (David Pike, -France 01/17/17 7:31 PM)
- My Memories of the Japanese Surrender (Richard Hancock, USA 12/14/16 5:51 AM)
- Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Genocidal Evil? (Timothy Brown, USA 12/13/16 5:43 AM)
- Dead and Missing under Franco (Carmen Negrin, -France 12/13/16 11:01 AM)
- Latin America and Race (Timothy Brown, USA 12/20/16 6:19 AM)
- Are "Homogeneous" Societies Less Racist? Mussolini on Race (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/21/16 6:10 AM)
- Latin America and Race (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/20/16 5:02 AM)
- Latin America and Race (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 12/18/16 6:06 AM)
- Freedom of Speech and Income Equality in Cuba (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 12/16/16 8:57 AM)
- Poverty and Income Distribution in Cuba (Carmen Negrin, -France 12/15/16 5:11 AM)
- Freedom of Speech and Religion in Cuba (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 12/14/16 8:32 AM)