On What Donald Trump Didn’t Say
Fidel Castro Ruz has departed from this life — a man who early in life had already become a legend. I don’t know of another man like him.
He is one of those revolutionary-patriot-zealots who always lived by the head, not the gut. In all things, he was consistent with his name, Fidel, which means “faithful” or “reliable.” He became a symbol of the 20th century, and today, in the 21st century, his role in history is especially noticeable.
Farewell, Comandante! We will never forget you.
Fidel is so great that even on the day of his death, purely political questions have arisen, which need resolving. What am I talking about? This is what:
Let’s start with the reactions of two U.S. presidents: Current President Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who has been elected but has not yet gone through the “inauguration” procedure, which is legally prescribed to take place on Jan. 20, 2017.
Obama was concise, and in his own way, sincere — all he is trying to do is “score points in his favor,” so that he remains in the memory of his fellow citizens not only as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but also as a president who actually accomplished something positive for his country. For example, he ended the blockade against Cuba, which had been in place for more than half a century. Eleven U.S. presidents have come and gone since 1959, but Fidel and his Free Cuba have remained a “bone in the throat of Washington.” And here we have Obama, who wrote about the death of Fidel Castro with a conciliatory tone, offering a “hand of friendship” to the Cuban people.
The outgoing head of the White House expressed his confidence that “history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” As for the Cubans, “they should know that despite ongoing political disagreements, they can count on the support of the U.S.”*
And what else could Obama say, searching as he is for whatever cards will play in his favor? But something else was said — if you believe the sources interpreting the president-elect’s positions — by Donald Trump. At first (as published on Twitter), Trump stuck with a simple sentence … with an exclamation mark at the end: “Fidel Castro is dead!”
A little while later, international media reported that Trump employee Jason Miller, communications director for president-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team, released a statement on Twitter “in Trump’s name”: “Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.”
The most interesting thing is that on this Twitter account of Jason Miller’s, the text of Trump’s statement is only present in the form of links to the accounts of others: Ben Jacobs, Mark Caputo, and Katherine B. Faulders, who brought this text to Trump’s assistant’s Twitter. Jason Miller himself just kept “retweeting” their posts.
But that does not mean we should not discuss Trump’s words as shared on Jason Miller’s Twitter, words which many people are now talking about: “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty, and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
Somehow, I’m having a hard time believing that these words were written by Donald Trump. Not only are we yet to see any direct quotes from him, but the links on Trump’s communications assistant’s Twitter page just lead back to those same Twitter pages.
Furthermore — and this is very important for our understanding of these dispatches made in Trump’s name — by definition, there were no “firing squads” in Cuba. This isn’t Central America, which at one time was crawling with American agents, where people across the region suffered from these “CIA programs with piles of corpses.” “Disappearances” were also the result of the machinations of CIA teams in these areas. But it was not like that at all in Cuba. The authors of the statement were clearly using this terminology without understanding that Cuba was shielded from precisely those sorts of American special operations! Over almost 50 years, there was the Bay of Pigs intervention, more than 600 CIA assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, and the U.S. blockade. Wow, how afraid Great America was of the small Island of Freedom.
And so, in order to understand where the information about Trump’s statement was coming from, I went to Donald Trump’s personal Twitter. And indeed, on Nov. 26, there is a post: “Fidel Castro is dead!”
And there was nothing more in the following hours, not until the end of the day on Nov. 27.
Could we assume that the death of Fidel Castro is being used by Trump’s opponents as part of a new kind of attack? Namely, that they are looking for ways to ascribe words to Trump that he never actually said, but which nevertheless may soon inform the ideas that take center stage in the informational fields of Twitter and other social media sites, in order to distort the positions of the new U.S. president. Just look at how active all of “Trump’s friends” have become on the eve of the electors’ vote on Dec. 19! They — his opponents — know that Trump has his own ideas on the development of America, and they understand that many of them will be forced to retreat.
As a result, it appears that the counter attack from their side has already begun. The effect is to confuse anyone who is ready to hear a new direction for American politics from Trump. The result, as Comrade Bender taught us, is to “Try a little more cynicism. People like it.”**
I will not be surprised if tomorrow, Trump releases a statement declaring that he did in fact refer to Fidel with these words, calling him “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.” But that will be — tomorrow. For now….
For now, the new president of the U.S. finds himself in a sensitive situation. Many in the U.S. are unable to forgive Fidel his fidelity and his personal weaknesses, and so now, using Trump’s authority, they are venting their long-standing fears of the Comandante.
When even in this sort of situation there is no clarity, Trump is certain to have some complicated times ahead.
The author is a columnist for the journal International Affairs.
*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.
**Translator’s note: This is a quote from a 1928 Soviet play, “Twelve Chairs.”