Daylén Vega and Yosbel Bullaín
(Retranslated from the Spanish)
RAMSEY Clark came to Cuba in November, in the context of the 9th International Colloquium for the Liberation of the Five and Against Terrorism. We met with him one afternoon, when he found time within his full agenda to grant us an interview. He was wearing with pride the Order of Solidarity medal presented to him by Irma Sehwerert, the mother of René González, and smiled with the wisdom of a man of much experience. After a handshake and cordial greetings, the former U.S. Attorney General talked to us without further ado.
When did Ramsey Clark come to know Cuba?
I was brought to Cuba as a very young child, I was five years old and my older brother, who was seven, had recently died of meningitis. A year later, to get over the shock, we came to Cuba on vacation. By chance, some time later, it was Cuba which produced the best vaccine to cure this illness.
Then I returned after leaving the Marines, during which time I was involved in the December 1941 Pearl Harbor incident. After leaving the Marines it was already very late to enter University, I began to do work for the Army and came to Cuba on four occasions.
In those days I saw that corruption and prostitution were very serious problems. The streetcars were the property of one individual, a Mr. Campbell from Miami and we saw these and other manifestations of U.S. interference, gangsters and the like.
When the Bay of Pigs attack took place in 1961, during the Kennedy administration, you were U.S. Attorney General. In what way did those events mark you?
When the Bay of Pigs happened I wrote a note to the President: "The greatest advantage you have about things is to be ignorant of certain facts," and I do believe that Kennedy was unaware of these plans, he didn’t realize that these things had been in progress for a long time, and he took office beginning January 1961.
The head of the CIA at that time was very close to the Kennedy family, and the consequences of having written that note to the President were not long in coming. Two days later, my boss pulled me out and sent me to work in the tax section; of course that was the work of the agency (CIA) and they created what was in effect a file on me. They spent two weeks checking all my drawers, all my work, but they didn’t find anything, no relation; that served as a lesson for me.
When I left the government January 20, 1969, I was no longer the Attorney General, that was a period which prompted reflection, I thought about the world and my own stance in it.
I felt responsible for the attitude of my own government toward Cuba and then I began to come here.
With your knowledge of U.S. legislation, what do you think of the trial of the Five in Miami?
Knowing Miami, I knew that it was going to be very difficult to obtain a fair trial there, where public opinion was marred by the constant bombardment of anti-Cuba information.
We didn’t have the least idea that in the United States, the government was paying journalists to write negative, untrue articles about Cuba. What they related was quite incredible.
From the beginning, I saw that what the Five had involved themselves in represented personal risk, but was very important for their country. In real terms, it was about warning Cuba about what was going on within the United States, about actions undertaken by armed organizations which were planning operations against an independent country, a member of the United Nations; that is something very serious, very grave.
What is taking place against the Five is a major miscarriage of justice, which has profoundly damaged the people of Cuba and our relations with them, and has included people from all over the world. It has now become very evident to me that what they were seeking was to avoid this kind of violence which was being planned against Cuba within U.S. territory.
Those who risk their freedom to save other lives are heroes.
In recent years the United States has invaded various Arab countries. What is your opinion of the attacks carried out by the U.S. army and the importance they have in terms of the arms race?
It’s one country after another, recently it almost destroyed Libya, a nation which had provided humanitarian aid to the rest of the countries of Africa; but it was attacked because to a certain extent it was independent of the United States and had oil. These are the kind of things which are happening. Now we are threatening Syria.
The tragedy of Iraq has no precedent in the history of humanity. Over two weeks it was destroyed, the capital and its cities bombed; there were more than 10,000 air attacks and a bomb was dropped every 30 seconds. People were dying all the time, they couldn’t get out into the streets. We are in 2013 and there are still reports of people dying daily.
More and more, I have seen that U.S. interventions are violent, and I don’t see when there is going to be an end to all this.
Right now, it posses a large nuclear arsenal which can destroy large populations. This has 40 times more power than the atom bomb which destroyed Hiroshima. If you take a map of the world, it’s impossible to count the quantity of cities which could be destroyed by this nuclear power.
I think it is somewhat alarming that the army is continuing to grow in this manner; it is as if there existed a great need to militarize the entire world in order to crush life on this beautiful planet; that’s the way the United States thinks.
Recently we have seen the United States involved in scandals concerning the abuse of prisoners on the part of officers guarding them. What do you think about what is taking place on the illegal U.S. base in Guantánamo?
They are bringing people from all over the world here to beautiful Cuba, to this port which we took by force, against the law, and have held them for years, torturing them. It is something shameful, unacceptable and, talking in terms of civilized human beings, the United States should never have occupied Cuban territory, it should never have constructed the base. What it should do is immediately return it to Cuba.
On various occasions, you have expressed your respect for the Cuban health system. How do you evaluate the development of this sector and the collaboration of our doctors in other countries?
In my view the health programs developed within the Cuban Revolution have brought exceptional experiences to public health. Every time I visit a country I think about its infant mortality rate. Before 1959, infant mortality was very high here and the rate dropped within a couple of years. Today, Cuba has indices below those of the United States thanks to the vision there was in the implementation of health programs. Without health, life has no meaning. Cuba has confronted these problems for a long time in a way that no other country has done.
Taking a simplistic view, one could think that the Cuban health system is rudimentary because it lacks the most sophisticated technology, but observing the treatment doctors provide people, including in the most remote areas, we can see that, in reality, it is very special.
Cuba is generous in a unique way and has worked a great deal on this, always thinking about world peace. The aid to countries in terrible situations, the legions of doctors who have provided treatment to peoples in all parts of the world is evidence of that.
The world needs to recall everything that Cuba is doing.
The Order of Solidarity is one of the most important decorations granted by the government of Cuba. What does it mean to Ramsey Clark to have received this recognition?
It is a great honor for me to have received this decoration, and perhaps there are people who deserve it more than I do. What I want – more than my solidarity noted – is to think about the people, the good neighbors that you are; we should have a genuine good neighbor policy. I believe that not knowing each other as good friends has also damaged us, because we have missed being with you, who are so generous.
I hope to be a person of sound solidarity and I hope that our peoples come to love each other as they should, in spite of our long history. Since the war between Spain and the United States, since that era, there has been active aggression toward Cuba, this is something that is very shameful, it is the most reproachable conduct on the part of a country and unacceptable in these times. In the world, there is no reason to justify it, nor words to describe it. We are so close and Cuba is so beautiful, and its people… If we cannot solve this problem, we will certainly not be able to solve the problems of life on the planet.