Ebola: To Cuba, a crisis; to USA, a military campaign

By Dave Lindorff*  (Progreso Weekly)

Cuban doctors abroad.
Cuban doctors abroad.

HAVANA TIMES — How’s this for a juxtaposition on how nations respond to a global health catastrophe. Check out these two headlines from yesterday’s news:

‘Cuba sends doctors to Ebola areas’

‘U.S. to deploy 3,000 troops as Ebola crisis worsens’

Reading these stories, which ran in, respectively, BBC News and Reuters, one learns that the Cuban government, which runs a small financially hobbled island nation of 11 million people, with a national budget of $50 billion, Gross Domestic Product of $121 billion and per capita GDP of just over $10,000, is dispatching 165 medical personnel to Africa to regions where there are ebola outbreaks, while the United States, the world’s wealthiest nation, with a population of close to 320 million, a national budget of $3.77 trillion, GDP of $17 trillion, and per capita GDP of over $53,000, is sending troops — 3,000 of them — to “fight” the Ebola epidemic.

Okay, I understand that these troops are supposedly going to be “overseeing” construction of treatment centers, but let’s get serious. With an epidemic raging through Africa, where some of the poorest nations in the world are located, what is needed right now are not new structures. Tent facilities would be fine for treating people in this kind of a crisis. What is needed is medical personnel. The important line in the Reuters article about the U.S. “aid” plan is that the U.S. troops will

…”establish a military control center for coordination, U.S. officials told reporters.

ebola“The goal here is to search American expertise, including our military, logistics and command and control expertise, to try and control this outbreak at its source in west Africa,” Lisa Monaco, Obama’s White House counter-terrorism adviser, told MSNBC television on Tuesday ahead of the announcement.

Cuba apparently does not feel that it needs to establish a military control center to dispatch its doctors and nurses, nor does it feel that “military, logistics and command and control expertise” are what is needed.

Anyone who thinks this dispatching of U.S. military personnel to Africa is about combating a plague is living in a fantasy world. This is about projecting U.S. military power further into Africa, which has already been a goal of the Obama administration, anxious to prevent China from gaining control over African mineral resources, and to control them for U.S. exploitation.

Ebola, to the U.S., is both an opportunity to gain a bigger foothold in Africa, and a danger, in terms of the disease spreading to the U.S.

Cuba, whose population does not include many tourists, and which is not a destination for many African visitors, either, is sending its medical personnel to Africa not to gain control of Africa’s resources, or to help it establish trade relations with Africa. It has no interest or hope of becoming a major player in the global contest for influence the way the U.S., China or Germany might.

mhoje-ebola3-photo-jpgIt is sending its medical personnel because they are needed, much as it did almost immediately following the earthquake in Haiti, where the U.S. also responded not with medical aid but with troops. (The U.S. Navy was dispatched, after considerable delay, and when U.S. forces finally arrived, they found some 300 Cuban doctors and nurses who had already managed to reopen the undamaged portion of a Port-au-Prince Hospital and to set up tent hospitals, before the first U.S. doctor even set foot in Haiti.)

This latest international crisis, which promises to worsen as the Ebola virus spreads further in Africa and, inevitably, moves to other continents, highlights the twisted nature of the United States, which increasingly sees all international issues through a military lens, and every crisis as requiring a military response.

The kindest way to look at this would be to say that the U.S. medical “system,” if it can even be called anything so organized, is so badly funded and so based upon the profit motive, that it is incapable of dispatching hundreds of skilled doctors to Africa to help fight the ravages of a plague like Ebola.

People in the U.S. are seriously underserved by primary care physicians, the very doctors who are needed when it comes to combating the spread of disease. Instead, we in the U.S. have all kinds of high-priced specialists in everything from dermatology and liposuction to cancer specialists who help us combat the diseases caused by our increasingly toxic environment and our chemical-laced foods.

Cuba, on the other hand, despite the nation’s poverty (the result, primarily, of over a half century embargo enforced by the U.S. ever since a leftist rebel movement led by Fidel Castro ousted the colonial government of Fulgencio Batista), has a first-rate medical system composed mostly of those very primary care physicians now needed so badly in Africa.

Let’s not kid ourselves either. There will surely be some military medical personnel among these dispatched soldiers but the U.S. is not sending 3,000 troops to Africa as an act of charity. It’s safe to say that once those non-medical troops get their “command and control” center established in Africa they will stay there.

Ebola, to the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department, is not a crisis, it is an opportunity, just as the earthquake in Haiti was an opportunity, not a crisis, and, I might add, just as Hurricane Katrina was an opportunity, not a crisis — an opportunity to level much of black New Orleans and to remake the city as a white, middle-class town.
*Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch and the author of several books.


28 thoughts on “Ebola: To Cuba, a crisis; to USA, a military campaign

  • Who did the UN place to lead the efforts of al the countries providing aid to Haiti
    Michelle Jean!

  • To libel Doctors without Borders for their dedication to helping those afflicted with Ebola is shameful. In addition you libel the World Health Organization. Cuba must be ashamed to have you as a citizen..

  • We have always been the first Dan Dr’s without borders brought Ebola to Afrika along with WHO CDC et/al Get real! I was with them for yrs until I found out just what they were doing Google me! I went public in 2000 about them and later in the Congo. I am an Afrikan from Angola raised in Cuba..Once an RN with a MPH now an Atty

  • You are inevitably back on the subject of prostitution which so fascinates your mind and where you apparently have earned some expertise.
    Is there as difference between prostitution under the Castro family regime and that practised under Batista? Is discussion of prostition under the Castro dictatorship unacceptable in Socialist circles?

  • No rodrigvm, just facts! I did not enter the web site you gave, but imagine it was full of the usually trotted out bunkum. So to that extent I remain ignorant. If you would like a good read, try ‘From the Shadows’ by Robert M. Gates

  • Yes rod pure propaganda. And I suppose the UN is a propaganda outlet as well? Because your are quick to use their figures when it suits your purpose. Now look up the information on 1950’s Cuba and how it compared at the time. ….doesn’t fit too well with your distorted world view compañero.

    …I lived the truth of your lies.

  • Cuba has a GDP or roughly $55 billion. Certainly they command far more resources than this nonprofit organization. This thread is about Ebola in West Africa not Haiti. Besides you do not wish to engage in a tit for tat regarding which country provides more humanitarian aid and in the most places. Even on per capita terms, the US is a far greater ‘giver’ of time and money. Look it up for yourself. By the way, Americans are still in Haiti as well.

  • Do a bit more research and you will find it…the great times before 1959? Prostitution, drugs and mafia types…what a myth anti castro mouthpieces have created!!!!

  • You are comparing a wealthy organization with Cuba? Ok. Who were the first ones to arrive in Haiti????? Or was that also a myth? The US brigade began to sing USA USA in a spectacle that still shame Americans who saw that. By the way, Cubans are still there…

  • Excellent. Louisiana should have accepted Raul’s offer of a medical brigade, many would have survive the hurricane and its effects thanks to Republican neglect.

  • that is because they are the slaves of the castro clan.

  • Dear Rich,

    Can you take a moment and point out just one pro Batista comment Moses has made on these pages? Because I certainly can’t recall any.

    As usual supporters of the Castro dictatorship are relegated to painting anyone who is anti Castro as being pro Batista….always pointing to some mythical boogieman of the US wanting to, as you say, “re-capture Cuba” ….nothing could be farther from the truth, but it plays well with your ilk. The reality was that in-spite of the Batista dictatorship Cuba was on a very positive trajectory in 1959, with a highly developed society and large middle class. Yes there was poverty but it was in line the likes of Argentina. There is no need to get into what Cuba was in 1959, that data is readily available and everyone knows what were. It’s enough to know that Cuba was developed and continuing to grow, a true “pearl of the Antilles.”

    Cuba in 1959 was largely anti-Batista with numerous groups working for his ouster. His removal from power was inevitable. Unfortunately it came at the hands of Fidel and his cohorts (who by the way received support from the likes of the Bacardi family) an his goal was always one of obtaining and keeping power.

    What could Cuba have become if José Antonio Echeverría and his FEU succeeded in the attack on Batista? Instead we were left with the legacy of Castro style Communism and the slow destruction of Cuba.
    55 years latter Cuba is destitute and in ruins. You only have to look at the images posted by contributors on this site to know what I am talking about. It’s a land of apathy and rations.

    Early 1960 saw the exodus of the Batista cohorts ….they weren’t many. 1961 – 1975 saw the exodus of much of the middle class, doctors, lawyers, teachers, business men, entire families…the flower of Cuban society. Many remained on the island Hopeful for a bright future….Unfortunately that’s not what they found

    By the way Rich, Cuban doctors sent abroad are organized in a military fashion, hardly able to leave a country on their own initiative. They are stuck until the regime decides what to do with them.

  • Mr. Eaton is a solid blogger and like anyone else, brings his biases to his postings. The story I heard is that the Cubans had nowhere to run to in Haiti and were just as anxious and afraid as anyone else. Nonetheless, Cuban doctors have provided a valuable service around the world. But it is Castro propaganda to call them volunteers or that they do what they do out of some deeply altruistic and noble heart. They earn less than 30 bucks a month in Cuba. If they accept foreign service they can earn 10 times that amount. That’s not altruism. Doctors without Borders, on the other hand, mostly leave lucrative medical practices to work for this organization. Why would I defend the brutal Batista regime? Castro-bootlickers always seem to believe that to be anti-Castro means pro-Batista. Don’t be an idiot. Batista was a dictator. Castro is a dictator. I want democracy for Cuba.

  • The Cuban doctors leave with a white coat.
    The 3000 soldiers leave with field hospitals with special wards and special protective suits.
    Without help from other the 165 Cubans are bound to die.
    They may get lucky and work in the hospitals the 3000 US soldiers set up like the Cuban doctors in Haiti.

  • Dear Moses: We are all aware that anti-Castro zealots search the Web for any positive related to Cuba and they spend the rest of their day debunking it. I remember when Tracey Eaton, when he headed the Havana bureau for the Dallas Morning News, went to Haiti to cover a massive health crisis exacerbated by massive gunfire between two competing factions. Eaton reported that even Doctors Without Borders fled the region but Cuban doctors remained, risking their lives to save sick and bullet-riddled civilians. Of course, Moses, now I’m sure you’ll debunk great, unbiased reporters like Mr. Eaton or say he was blinded by Cuban propaganda when he was in Haiti. It is incredibly amazing to me that, since 1959, the anti-Castro/pro-Batista rhetoric in the U. S. has dominated the Cuban narrative, often at the expense of far more important things facing the U. S. democracy and U. S. citizens. This has gone on since 1959, Moses. I guess we can expect it to continue another six decades, uh? At least if Cuba is not re-captured while our children and grand-children, like their parents and grand-parents, remained uninterested. Now, Moses, tell us how nice the Batista-Mafia dictatorship treated the Cubans on the island from 1952 till they fled in their getaway planes, ships and boats in the wee hours of January 1, 1959. America is waiting for your take on that, Moses.

  • What’s your point? What the heck does that have to do with Ebola in West Africa? Once again, any chance you think you can get to tell an anti-US anecdote you take it. I have actually seen that story in a CSI New York episode. People fall through the cracks of bureaucracy everywhere in the world. People die in Cuba too. Would you send your loved one to Cuba for medical care or to a hospital near that park bench in Florida?

  • Actually no Dan. Don’t take my word for it, do a Google search on the history of Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. Don’t believe the Castro bullsh*t.

  • A total and complete distortion of facts. This man doesn’t merit publication – unless it is in Pravda. The statement that: “Tent facilities would be fine for treating people in this kind of a crises.” reflects medical ignorance of the nature of the ebola outbreak and of how serious it is.
    Obviously, to Mr. Lindorff a humanitarian catastrophe is just an opportunity to vent his political spleen. He re-gurgitates all the old old socialist guff displaying total ignorance – both actual and in particular with regard to Cuba’s hospitals. Has he seen the missing door handles, the insanitary cracked toilets, the broken windows and the holes in doors and walls?
    Mr. Lindorff states that the GDP percapita in Cuba “is just over $10,000. I had thought that it was about $5,600. But let us consider Mr. Lindorf’s figure of national GDP OF $121 billion.
    The Cuban workforce is in the order of 5,200, about 55% of the total population. The average rate of pay for the 5,200 is just over $248 per annum. That is an annual total of $3.0028 billion. So the obvious question is: What is the Castro family regime doing with the balance of the $121 billion – some $118 billion ! Could it be that there is corruption and somebody is lining their family coffers?

  • Doesn’t say much for your wife’s distant relatives concern, she could have taken him to emergency or notified her distant relatives to get help.

  • No.
    Cuba is a late comer in sending some medical staff to assist combating the ebola outbreak. Many countries already had medical staff there. Medicin sans Frontier has been there from the start of the outbreak. Compare the aid that Canada provided for Haiti with that of Cuba. Take off the political blinkers Dan.

  • I remember talking once to one of my wife’s distant relatives whose husband came to the US in the 90’s. I don’t remember the particulars, but I remember that he died on a park bench somewhere in Florida after being unable to get medical care or manage to repatriate himself to Cuba.

  • Are Cuban doctors not always the first to arrive, the last to leave, the most prepared for harsh environments and lack of supplies, and the most appreciated by far, from Haiti to Pakistan ?

  • these so called Cuban doctors are going to Africa just so they could get some extra money to support their families

  • What an idiot! Just a little research into who the US is sending would show the military units being sent are being used to construct hospitals, and help secure and direct the already hundreds of western medical personnel including more than 80 US medical staff already there. I get the fact that tiny Cuba looks for every opportunity to stick its chest out. But only stupid people really believe this propaganda. To describe medical care in Cuba as first-rate is ignorant. Obviously the writer of this post, Dave Lindorff, is a liar or has never been to a real Cuban hospital. Once again, anti-US government feelings appear the cloud this writer’s interpretation of the facts. While the US medical system is nothing to brag about, I would invite Mr. Lindorff to spend a week in a Cuban hospital. There is no doubt his views about Cuban medical care would change. Finally, if this ebola epidemic is to be controlled before it reaches worldwide, it will not be the 50 Cuban doctors who solve this pandemic. It will be the US-led, Canadian and European medical scientists perfecting an antivirus vaccine. Like most anti-US government blatherers, this post is total crap.

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