“Christ at the Column” by Caravaggio, oil on canvas, circa 1607. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The torture-house run by Gina Haspel in 2002 was code-named “Cat’s Eye” (Adam Goldman, New York Times, March 13, 2018), evoking images of the Orwellian poster that haunted Winston Smith in 1984 (“Big Brother is Watching You”) and of the Ministry of Love and Room 101. At this site (before Haspel ran the prison), a Qaeda suspect by the name of Abu Zubaydah was water-boarded 83 times. A medical officer recorded the beginning sessions of Zubaydah’s “water-cure”:
“The sessions accelerated rapidly progressing quickly to the water board after large box, walling [slamming prisoner against wall], and small box periods. [Abu Zubaydah] seems very resistant to the water board. Longest time with the cloth over his face so far has been 17 seconds. This is sure to increase shortly. NO useful information so far…. He did vomit a couple of times during the water board with some beans and rice. It’s been 10 hours since he ate so this is surprising and disturbing. We plan to only feed Ensure for a while now. I’m head[ing] back for another water board session.[i]
A common thread in discussions of “enhanced interrogations” by our politicians is the widespread assumption that the times after 9/11 were a “dark period” in our history, an aberration, an exception to our usual humane treatment of prisoners of war, political prisoners and even common prisoners.
El Morro lighthouse is located inside the fortress known as the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro. This was built in 1845 and consists of an octagonal dome metal with specially designed to guide ships and aircraft crystals. Located approximately 45 meters above sea level, its light has a range of 18 nautical miles with two light flashes every 15 seconds , helping to avoid accidents as consequences of bad weather or poor visibility. El Faro, next to the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, has become the symbol of Havana capital of all Cubans. (Credit: CO8MRF / Wikimedia Commons)
Brief Fragments of a Personal Cuban History
The flight of Fulgencio Batista from Cuba (“to avoid more bloodshed”) during the early hours of January 1, 1959, marked the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
The most comprehensive and best written history of Cuba in English is Hugh Thomas’ Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (New York: Harper and Row, 1971). Here is Thomas’ assessment of Cuba before the Castro Revolution:
Cuba’s social misery in the past was due to an extreme form of that public meanness and private affluence that characterizes North America as well as South. (p. 1487)
Soon after Fidel Castro’s assumption of power, U.S. politicians condemned the new regime’s public executions of torturers, policemen, civil servants and suspected criminals as a “bloodbath.” Typically, Castro pointed out U.S. hypocrisy: