They called them “sonic attacks,” “health incidents,” “Havana syndrome.” Because of inexplicable noises whose causes were foggy, the United States government decided to remove all nonessential personnel and their families from its embassy in Cuba in September 2017. Word spread that 20 diplomats were describing various symptoms, such as dizziness, vertigo, mental confusion, partial hearing loss, sleep disorders and lapses in basic vocabulary, supposedly provoked by the exposure to persistent sounds in their homes or hotel rooms, sounds the origins of which were unknown.
The Cuban government denied time and time again that it was responsible for this strange illness that neither the laws of physics nor dozens of scientists from many varied disciplines could explain. If it were a sonic or microwave gun, according to successive reports from Donald Trump’s State Department, how would it be possible that the waves were perceived by certain individuals in close quarters and not by others? How could a strong energy emission have a selective effect? Does somebody have James Bond’s magic gun? Was this Spectre, the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, the secret organization against which the most celebrated spy in British films was fighting?
The National Security Archive, an independent, nongovernmental organization based at George Washington University, has recently released an executive summary of a 2018 briefing from the State Department’s Accountability Review Board. This comes after a four-month investigation regarding the strange attacks against U.S. diplomats in Havana, which served as the pretext for Trump’s government to impose sanctions against Cuba — 242 measures in four years applied against just one country, a record in U.S. foreign policy.
The report states that CIA staff in Havana were the first to sound the alarm about these strange symptoms. We don’t know what these spies were doing, but keeping in mind the long history of more than 60 years of dirty war, assassination attempts, and fantastical plans against Fidel Castro, including placing bombs in the cigars and poison in the wetsuits of the Cuban leader, surely the CIA was not paying these agents to drink daiquiris under palm trees at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
Though exceptional, this is not the most relevant piece of data from the ARB’s investigation, which blames the State Department for “lack of senior leadership, ineffective communication, and systemic disorganization.”* What is most noteworthy is that they recognize they cannot explain what happened in Havana and are also unable to identify a suspect. “The mechanism of injury, the perpetrator and the motive remain unknown,”* according to the report that was submitted to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on June 7, 2018.
The exaggeration of the alleged attacks in Havana was and continues to be the biggest problem in this saga. Those who believe that something happened because the State Department says so, or those who maintain that there’s still a mystery that we must resolve, face the Herculean task of having to prove something that never actually happened. In science, as well as in jurisprudence, one can prove what is, but it is metaphysically impossible to certify what isn’t. If someone tries to convince us that 10 angels fit on the head of a pin, at least one pin should be documented. This is pure and simple logic, except when the intention is to provide “diabolical evidence,” the same recourse used in the Inquisition where the victim was obligated to prove his or her innocence.
The other big problem with this fantasy is the terrible relationship that the Trump administration had with the truth. That president’s lies surpassed a list of more than 20,000 false claims, which culminated in the assault on Congress because Trump and his supporters resisted the verifiable reality of the election that gave victory to Joe Biden.
Dr. Robert Bartholomew, professor emeritus of the Department of Medical Psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said on Tuesday on Mesa Redonda (a Cuban television program) that in the so-called Havana syndrome, politics and science are mixed in an interesting way and that the U.S. government covered up this fact to turn it into a political football against the Cubans. He added, “This case can be summarized in a single sentence: ‘When you hear the sound of hoofbeats in the night, first think horses, not zebras.’ The doctors at the State Department went for the most exotic hypothesis early on: they were going for unicorns!”
Editor’s note: These quotes, though accurately translated, could not be independently verified.